Adolescent Illicit Drug Use and Subsequent Academic and Psychosocial Adjustment : an Examination of Socially-Mediated Pathways
Article [Author's Original]
Is part ofDrug and alcohol dependence ; vol. 135, pp. 45-51.
Background: Questions remain regarding the consequences of illicit drug use on adolescent adjustment and the nature of mechanisms that may explain these consequences. In this study, we examined whether early-onset illicit drug use predicts subsequent academic and psychosocial adjustment and whether associations are socially-mediated by decreased school engagement and increased peer deviancy. Method: 4885 adolescents were followed throughout secondary school. We used regressions to determine whether illicit drug use in grade 7 predicted academic achievement, school dropout, depressive symptoms, and conduct problems in grades 10–11, adjusting for potential confounders. We used path analysis to test whether significant associations were mediated by school engagement and peer deviancy in grade 8. Results: Illicit drug use predicted conduct problems and school dropout, but not academic achievement and depressive symptoms. The association between illicit drug use and conduct problems was fully mediated by increased peer deviancy. The association between illicit drug use and school dropout was partially mediated by increased peer deviancy, but remained mostly direct. No indirect association via decreased school engagement was found. Examination of reverse pathways revealed that conduct problems and academic achievement in grade 7 predicted drug use in grades 10–11. These associations were mediated by peer deviancy and school engagement (conduct problems only). Conclusion: Adolescent illicit drug use influences the risk of school dropout and conduct problems in part by contributing to deviant peer affiliation. Reciprocal social mediation characterizes the association between drug use and conduct problems. A reverse mechanism best explains the association with academic achievement.