Social, Friend Influence On Binge Drinking And Marijuana Use

If Your Friends Drink, Smoke Pot, Odds Are You Will, Too

Jul 15 • Substance Abuse • 2962 Views • Comments Off on If Your Friends Drink, Smoke Pot, Odds Are You Will, Too

Binge drinking and marijuana use are two of the most common forms of substance intake in the U.S. Current evidence shows that involvement in both of these risky behaviors stems from a number of potential risk factors, including the influences of social peers, family members and intimate partners. In a study published in April 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from two U.S. institutions examined the impact that the substance-related behaviors of peers and intimate partners have on the chances that any given young adult man will get involved in binge drinking and/or significant marijuana use.

Binge Drinking And Marijuana

Binge drinking involves the consumption of enough alcohol to reach or exceed the threshold for legal intoxication (a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent) in about two hours. While all teenage and adult age groups include binge-drinking participants in their ranks, the practice is especially common among teens and young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, with a particularly prominent spike occurring in people 21 to 25.

Marijuana, now decriminalized or legalized in certain jurisdictions, is the single most widely used illicit/illegal substance throughout the U.S. Rates for intake of the drug are highest among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the most recent figures compiled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Roughly 19 percent of the population within this age range uses marijuana. Among all adults over the age of 25, the rate of marijuana intake falls to 5.3 percent.

Risk Factors For Binge Drinking

Researchers have uncovered a range of known risk factors for both binge drinking and marijuana use. Among teenagers, known binge drinking factors include getting drunk for the first time at a relatively early age, using alcohol to cope with unpleasant emotional states, living in a community that views alcohol use in generally positive terms and having personality traits such as impulsiveness, a desire for unique experiences and low fear of risky behavior.

Many of these risk factors also apply to young adults; additional known risks for people in early adulthood include involvement in other forms of substance use, having a personal expectation that drinking will provide “positive” results and having a low level of belief in the ability to control one’s alcohol intake.

Risk Factors For Marijuana Use

Known risk factors for marijuana use include having access to the drug through social ties, having parents who use marijuana, having a prior history of other forms of substance use and having a low level of belief that marijuana intake can cause significant harm.

Impact Of Substance Use On Peers And Intimate Partners

In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from Oklahoma State University and the Oregon Social Learning Center used information from a long-term project called the Oregon Youth Study to assess the impact of peer and intimate partner behaviors on young adult men’s chances of becoming binge drinkers or using significant amounts of marijuana. All told, the study included 185 young men already affected by other known risks for these two forms of substance intake. The researchers looked at each participant’s pattern of alcohol and marijuana use over a 10-year span of time extending from his early 20s to his early 30s.

The researchers concluded that having one or more peers involved in any form of substance use increases the odds that a young man will use any alcohol, use significant amounts of alcohol and participate in binge drinking. The odds for these outcomes also rise along with the amount of time spent with substance-using peers. Alcohol use by an intimate partner also increases a young man’s level of alcohol consumption, although to a lesser degree.

After analyzing the available information for marijuana use, the researchers concluded that having one or more peers involved in marijuana intake increases the odds that a young man will use significant amounts of the drug. The odds for using marijuana at all go up along with the amount of time spent with a peer who uses any kind of substance. Having a partner who uses marijuana increases the odds that any young man will use the drug to any extent, and also increases the degree of marijuana involvement. As is true with alcohol consumption, the odds for marijuana use go up with the amount of time spent with a marijuana-using intimate partner.

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