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Longitudinal patterns of polysubstance use throughout adolescence: association with adult substance use and psychosocial outcomes controlling for preadolescent risk factors in a male cohort.

PURPOSE: Inconsistent reports raise the question of the extent to which poor adult outcomes are associated with adolescent polysubstance use (PSU: alcohol, marijuana, other illicit drugs) above and beyond earlier risk factors.

METHODS: Early adulthood substance-related and psychosocial outcomes were examined in association with age 13 to 17 developmental patterns of PSU in boys from urban, low SES neighborhoods (N = 926). Three classes obtained by latent growth modeling described low/non-users (N = 565, 61.0%), lower risk PSU (later onset, occasional use, 2 ≤ substances; N = 223, 24.1%), and higher risk PSU (earlier onset, frequent use, 3 ≥ substances; N = 138, 14.9%). Preadolescent individual, familial and social predictors of adolescent PSU patterns were used as covariates.

RESULTS: Adolescent PSU contributed to both age-24 substance-related outcomes (frequency of alcohol, drug use, and getting drunk, risky behaviors under influence, and use-related problems) and psychosocial outcomes (no high school diploma, professional or financial strain, ASP symptoms, criminal record) over and above preadolescent risk factors. Controlling for preadolescent risk factors, adolescent PSU made a more important contribution to adult substance use outcomes (increasing the risk by about 110%) than to psychosocial outcomes (16.8% risk increase). PSU classes showed poorer adjustment for all age-24 substance use, and for various psychosocial outcomes than low/non-users. Higher risk polysubstance users also reported poorer outcomes than their lower risk peers for most substance use outcomes, and for professional or financial strain and criminal record.

CONCLUSION: Findings highlight the contribution of adolescent PSU in a dose-response fashion, over and above preadolescent risk factors, on both homotypic and heterotypic outcomes in early adulthood.

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