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Substance Use Patterns Through Early Adulthood: Results for Youth With and Without Chronic Conditions.



Adolescence and emergent adulthood are periods of peak prevalence for substance use that pose risks for short- and long-term health harm, particularly for youth with chronic medical conditions (YCMC) who are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. As there have been no nationally representative studies of substance use during this period for these medically vulnerable youth, the authors sought to examine onset and intensification of these behaviors for a national sample of youth with and without chronic conditions.


Longitudinal data are from 2,719 youth between the ages of 12 and 26 years interviewed from 2002 to 2011 for the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Child Development and Transition to Adulthood Supplements, a nationally representative, population-based survey. Multivariate generalized linear mixed models were used to estimate patterns of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use during adolescence and emergent adulthood for youth with and without chronic conditions, adjusting for potential confounders.


Overall, 68.8%, 44.3%, and 47.8% of youth reported ever trying alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, respectively. Among users, 42.2%, 73.4%, and 50.3% of youth reported binge drinking, regular cigarette use, and recent marijuana use, respectively. YCMC were more likely to engage in any and heavier substance use; transition years and early adulthood were periods of peak risk for YCMC compared with their healthy peers.


Substance use among YCMC during adolescence and emergent adulthood is a substantial concern. Increased prevention and case detection are in order to address these behaviors and promote optimal health outcomes for medically vulnerable youth.

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