Adolescent substance use and adult health status. A critical analysis of a problematic relationship

Ryan E. Spohn, Howard B. Kaplan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The intuitively appealing hypothesized relationship between drug use and physical health status is reexamined critically in a longitudinal perspective. Individuals who were first surveyed in Houston junior high schools in 1971 are followed up through personal interviews in the fourth decade of life. In addition to focusing on the baseline effect of drug use on health, we include latent constructs reflecting deviance and psychological maladjustment as theoretically relevant antecedent and mediating variables. Using structural equation models, we found a positive, significant relationship between adolescent substance use and poor physical health in adulthood. Controlling for the spurious effects of adolescent psychological health, the baseline relationship is reduced, but remains significant. However, including a latent construct for adolescent deviance in the models attenuates the baseline relationship to insignificance. On the assumption that deviance is a cause, rather than a consequence of drug use, we conclude that the general deviant lifestyle, rather than drug use per se, adversely effects physical health, even into middle adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmergent Issues in the Field of Drug Abuse
PublisherJAI Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)0762305371, 9780762305377
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in Medical Sociology
ISSN (Print)1057-6290

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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