Prevalence and predictors of substance use: a comparison between adolescents with and without learning disabilities.

J. W. Maag, D. M. Irvin, R. Reid, S. F. Vasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


A considerable body of literature has accumulated that examines patterns of substance use and abuse among adolescents attending general education classes. However, much less information exists on the prevalence and predictors of substance use among adolescents with learning disabilities. One purpose of this study was to determine the comparative prevalence of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use among a sample of 123 students with learning disabilities (91 male and 32 female, mean age = 14.37 years) and 138 nondisabled students (77 male and 61 female, mean age = 13.71 years). A second purpose was to determine whether two psychosocial variables (self-esteem and type of behavior problem) or severity of drinking problem best predicted use of tobacco and marijuana. Students were administered the Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI)-School form (Coopersmith, 1987) and the Adolescent Drinking Index (ADI) (Harrell & Wirtz, 1989); their teachers completed the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist (RBPC) (Quay & Peterson, 1987). Tobacco and marijuana use were proportionally higher for adolescents with learning disabilities; no differences emerged for alcohol use between groups. A discriminant function analysis revealed that scores on the SEI and subscale scores of the RBPC did not reliably predict tobacco or marijuana use for either group. ADI scores were reliable predictors of marijuana use for students with learning disabilities and tobacco use for both groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-234
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of learning disabilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Health Professions(all)


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