Substance use capital: Social resources enhancing youth substance use

Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2016 Sep;64(4):255-62. doi: 10.1016/j.respe.2016.01.101. Epub 2016 Sep 2.


Background: Social capital is described as a protective factor against youth substance use, but it may also be associated with behaviours that do not enhance health. The present study hypothesized that 'substance use capital', i.e. resources favourable to substance use, is a risk factor for substance use and misuse.

Methods: We used baseline data from the ongoing Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors (C-SURF) that included a representative sample of young Swiss men (n=5623). Substance use (alcohol, cannabis, 15 illicit drugs, lifetime use, hazardous use and dependence), substance use capital (parental and peer attitudes towards substance use, parental and peer drug use, perceived norms of substance use) and aspects of social capital (relationships with parents and peers) were assessed. Logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between substance-related resources and social resources, and substance use.

Results: Results showed that substance-related resources were associated with an increased risk of substance use (OR between 1.25 and 4.67), whereas social resources' associations with substance use were commonly protective but weaker than substance-related resources. Thus, a drug-friendly environment facilitated substance use and misuse. Moreover, the results showed that peer environments were more drug-friendly than familial environments.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this study highlighted a concept of 'substance use capital', which may be useful for advancing both theoretical and applied knowledge of substance use. Indeed, substance use is not only associated with a lack of social resources, but also with specific drug-friendly social resources coming from environment and background.

Keywords: Capital social; Comportement en matière de santé; Drogues; Drugs; Facteurs de risques; Facteurs protecteurs; Famille; Family; Health behaviour; Protective factors: Risk factors; Social capital.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Age Factors
  • Causality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Family
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Risk-Taking
  • Social Capital*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult