RAND study shows solitary drug, alcohol and cigarette use puts adolescents at higher risk

Adolescents who use alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana while alone are more likely to have health and behavioral problems as young adults than their peers who consume the substances only in social settings, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Solitary alcohol, cigarette and marijuana users are less likely to graduate from college, more likely to have substance use problems as young adults, and tend to report poorer physical health by age 23 than their peers who were social substance users, according to the study by the nonprofit research organization.

"While substance use is a problem in itself, these findings suggest that risk among solitary users is especially high," said Joan Tucker, a RAND psychologist and lead author of the study. "Solitary use is a warning sign that youth will be less productive and have more problems as young adults -- more problems, even, than others who also used substances during childhood. The challenge is to identify these at-risk children and find out what type of assistance might benefit them."

Among the 8th graders studied, 16 percent had smoked cigarettes while alone, 17 percent had engaged in solitary drinking and 4 percent had used marijuana while alone.

Prior research has found that adolescent substance users are at risk for a wide range of problems during adolescence that persist into young adulthood, such as low academic achievement, stealing and other social problems.

The RAND Health study, published in the December edition of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, is the first to study adolescent solitary substance users and track their functioning over time.

The results come from a study of about 6,000 adolescents from California and Oregon enrolled in a program to evaluate Project ALERT, a drug use prevention program developed by RAND for middle school children. People involved in the study were asked about their substance use and a variety

Contact: Lisa Sodders
RAND Corporation

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