Genetic and Shared Environmental Factors Explain the Association Between Adolescent Polysubstance Use and High School Noncompletion

Christal N. Davis, Ian R. Gizer, Arpana Agrawal, Dixie J. Statham, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin, Wendy S. Slutske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Examine the nature of the relationship between adolescent polysubstance use and high school noncompletion. Method: Among a sample of 9,579 adult Australian twins (58.63% female, Mage = 30.59), we examined the association between the number of substances used in adolescence and high school noncompletion within a discordant twin design and bivariate twin analysis. Results: In individual-level models controlling for parental education, conduct disorder symptoms, childhood major depression, sex, zygosity, and cohort, each additional substance used in adolescence was associated with a 30% increase in the odds of high school noncompletion (OR = 1.30 [1.18, 1.42]). Discordant twin models found that the potentially causal effect of adolescent use on high school noncompletion was nonsignificant (OR = 1.19 [0.96, 1.47]). Follow-up bivariate twin models suggested genetic (35.4%, 95% CI [24.5%, 48.7%]) and shared environmental influences (27.8%, 95% CI [12.7%, 35.1%]) each contributed to the covariation in adolescent polysubstance use and early school dropout. Conclusions: The association between polysubstance use and early school dropout was largely accounted for by genetic and shared environmental factors, with nonsignificant evidence for a potentially causal association. Future research should examine whether underlying shared risk factors reflect a general propensity for addiction, a broader externalizing liability, or a combination of the two. More evidence using finer measurement of substance use is needed to rule out a causal association between adolescent polysubstance use and high school noncompletion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-123
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Keywords

  • adolescent
  • discordant twin analysis
  • educational attainment
  • polysubstance use
  • substance use

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