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Sex differences in substance use from adolescence to young adulthood: Tests of increases in emergent adulthood and maturing out in later young adulthood

Alcohol and other substance use can be a problem for adolescents and young adults. This misuse typically starts decreasing as individuals reach middle-to-later young adulthood. The current study had two goals to test sex difference in substance use during this period and to test these differences in five substance outcomes. This included alcohol use, heavy drinking episodes, alcohol problems, cigarette use, and marijuana use.

Originally, 1205 teens were recruited during high school and seven waves of data was collected over several years. Participants were asked about quantity and frequency of alcohol use, how many times they participated in heavy drinking, undesirable drinking consequences, cigarette use in the last six months, and finally marijuana use in the last 6 months. The researchers found that maturing out throughout the participants continued to at least 33 years with further decreased past the age of 28 in substance outcomes. They also found sex to be a predictor of changes across substance use except cigarette use.

Males experienced greater increases in cigarette use relative to females. Males also reported higher mean levels and greater changes when it came to increased and decreased substance use. They found males reported greater increases from adolescent to young adulthood for alcohol problems, cigarette use and marijuana use. Alcohol use and heavy drinking increased significantly for males and females. Females were found to have a lower rate of deceleration of heavy drinking. Overall, heavy drinking was found to be discontinued first and later for cigarette and marijuana use. This information is important when educating young adults on substance use. These studies show that substance use is different in male and females and there should be follow up studies to investigate changes and why they occur at different phases to create more effective, targeted interventions.

Take Away: The current study looks at sex difference in alcohol use, heavy drinking episodes, alcohol problems, cigarette use, and marijuana use throughout a timespan of several years. 1205 high school teens were recruited with seven waves of data collected. They found there were differences in behaviors among males and females with males having greater increases for alcohol problems, cigarette use, and marijuana use. They also found heavy drinking was stopped first and cigarette and marijuana use last. These studies show substance use is different between sexes and there should be follow up studies to investigate the changes and why they occur at different phases of young adulthood.

Windle, M. (2019, December 23). Sex differences in substance use from adolescence to young adulthood: Tests of increases in emergent adulthood and maturing out in later young adulthood. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0376871619305903

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