Silicon Valley Notebook


This study examined how transitions from licit to illicit drug use by adolescents were influenced by risk and preventative factors in their lives. Survey data, from approximately 2000 twelfth grade students surveyed in the 2013 Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth study, supplemented with feedback from eight professionals knowledgeable about youth drug use, were used. A sequential regression analysis found that licit drug usage significantly increased the possibility that a youth will transition to illicit drugs. That peer drug culture increased the risk of both types drug usage was predicted using Sutherland’s Differential Association theory (1939). However, family support and academic engagement, as per Social Supportive Control theory (Hirschi 1969) directly decreased the likelihood of licit drug use and only indirectly illicit drug usage. Results from this mixed methods research contributed to the existing body of research on the gateway perspectives in adolescent drug use scholarship and has practical implications for developing youth drug deterrence programs.