Research & Resources

Risky Drinking in Adolescents and Emerging Adults: Differences Between Individuals Using Alcohol Only Versus Polysubstances

In this study, researchers examined differences in factors among youth who consume alcohol only compared to youth who consume alcohol with other substances (i.e., polysubstance use), and correlates associated with risky drinking between the groups. Participants were 955 youth and young adults, ages 16–24, who reported recent risky drinking. Participants completed measures of alcohol and other substance use, alcohol-related consequences, drinking motives, alcohol protective behavioral strategies, mental health symptoms, and emotion dysregulation. Participants were considered in the polysubstance group if they reported using at least one other substance (e.g., cannabis, stimulants) in addition to alcohol in the past 3 months. Most participants (70.4%) reported polysubstance use; these individuals engaged in riskier patterns of drinking, experienced more alcohol-related consequences, used fewer protective behavioral strategies, had stronger drinking motives (enhancement, social, coping), had more mental health symptoms, and reported more emotion dysregulation than participants reporting alcohol use only. Regression models showed that emotion dysregulation was significantly associated with risky drinking in the alcohol-only group, while conformity and coping motives, alcohol protective behavioral strategies, and anxiety symptoms were significantly associated with risky drinking in the polysubstance group. Researchers suggested these findings could inform the tailoring of interventions for individuals who engage in risky drinking and polysubstance use.

This paper, “Risky drinking in adolescents and emerging adults: Differences between individuals using alcohol only versus polysubstances,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Substance use & misuse.

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