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The Impact of Longitudinal Social Networks on Young Adult Substance Use and Misuse

Led by: Cassie McMillan

Adolescent substance use is one of the strongest predictors of drug overdose and death during adulthood. However, most youth who initiate tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other drug use do not report problematic use at later points in the life course. To promote healthy substance use trajectories, it is necessary to identify key factors that increase people’s odds of misuse in adulthood. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this project addresses key gaps in this line of research by focusing on the link between high school friendship (in)stability and risky substance use behaviors during young adulthood. More specifically, we are creating a unique dataset that will enable us to evaluate whether maintaining and dissolving certain types of friendship ties from ages 12 to 22 impacts substance use across the life course. We will also examine how these patterns vary according to respondents’ gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Results will enhance our understanding of the risk factors associated with substance misuse and inform future interventions that aim to prevent epidemics related to substance use behaviors.

Project team:

  • Cassie McMillan, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Kaley Jones, PhD Student, Criminology & Justice Policy
  • Kay Fleischner, BA Student, Sociology
  • Brinly Meelia, BA Student, Public Health
  • Aarushi Shankar, BA Student, Criminology & Criminal Justice

Outside collaborators:

  • Wade Jacobsen, University of Maryland
  • Nayan Rameriz, California State University, Northridge

Project sponsor/grantor:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse

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