Research & Resources

Characteristics and Reasons for Use Associated with Solitary Alcohol and Marijuana Use Among U.S. 12th Grade Students, 2015-2021

In this study, researchers examined sociodemographic characteristics and their potential association with adolescent solitary alcohol and marijuana use. Researchers used data from 7,845 12th grade students participating in the nationally representative Monitoring the Future study from 2015 to 2021 to examine cross-sectional associations between sociodemographics, heavy drinking/marijuana use, reasons for use, and past 12-month solitary alcohol or marijuana use among past 12-month users. Researchers also examined historical trends and possible differences related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings showed that the prevalence of solitary use increased from 2015 to 2021, with no evidence of significant COVID-19 deviations. In 2021, 32.1% of those reporting past 12-month alcohol use reported solitary alcohol use, and 55.8% of those reporting past 12-month marijuana use reported solitary marijuana use. Common and substance-specific sociodemographic risk factors were observed. Binge drinking was associated with solitary alcohol use, while frequent marijuana use was associated with solitary marijuana use. Reasons for use related to coping with negative affect were associated with solitary use. Compulsive use reasons were more strongly associated with solitary alcohol use than solitary marijuana use. Drinking to have a good time with friends was negatively associated with solitary alcohol use, while this association was not seen for solitary marijuana use. Associations between solitary use and higher levels of consumption and coping with negative affect highlight the importance of solitary use as a risk indicator.

This paper, “Characteristics and reasons for use associated with solitary alcohol and marijuana use among U.S. 12th Grade Students, 2015-2021,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published in the journal Drug and alcohol dependence.

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