Risk Estimates for Starting Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drug Use in the United States: Male–Female Differences and the Possibility That ‘Limiting Time With Friends’ is Protective

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Drug and Alcohol Dependence






Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

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Background A specific facet of parental monitoring is known as ‘limiting time with friends’ (LTF). Here, we aim to learn whether LTF-associated differences in adolescent risk of starting to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs now might be as large as observed male–female risk differences. Methods Data are from the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, with annual large scale nationally representative samples of community-dwelling civilian age 12 years and older, conducted 2002–2009. Focus is on 12–17-year-old participants, assessed via computerized self-interviews. Risk differences are estimated for all 12–17 year olds, males and females separately, and in relation to the LTF facet of parenting. Results Contingency table analyses disclose a female excess risk of initiating use of tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and EMIRD, with male–female risk differences ranging from 0.1% (cocaine) to 1.6% (alcohol). LTF-associated risk differences were of similar magnitude for young people whose parents ‘always’ limit time with friends versus those with parents who are more relaxed about the LTF facet of parenting [e.g., RD = 0.4% (cocaine); 1.5% (alcohol)]. Conclusions Not just for tobacco, but also for other drugs, there now is female excess risk of extra-medical drug use. Drug-by-drug, observed LTF-associated risk differences are about the same size as the female excess risk. This evidence provides a rationale to sustain focus on the LTF facet of parenting if the goal is to enhance prevention of precocious drug involvement and to delay its onset until later in the adolescent or adult years.

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