Educational Paths and Substance Use from Adolescence into Early Adulthood

J Drug Issues. 2012 Apr 1;42(2):10.1177/0022042612446590. doi: 10.1177/0022042612446590.


This study examined how substance use trajectories from ages 15 to 23 in a community sample (N=921) were related to educational pathways. Rates of heavy drinking converged across different paths, but starting college at a 2-year college before transferring to a 4-year college was related to later increase in drinking after high school. Higher future educational attainment was negatively associated with high school marijuana use, but marijuana use increased after high school for individuals who went to 4-year colleges compared to those who did not. Noncollege youth had the highest rates of daily cigarette smoking throughout adolescence and early adulthood, while college dropouts had higher rates of smoking than college students who did not drop out. The findings support the need for universal prevention for early adult heavy drinking, addressing increases in drinking and marijuana use in 4-year colleges, and targeting marijuana use and cigarette smoking interventions at noncollege youth and college dropouts.