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Firearm Carrying and Concurrent Substance Use Behaviours in a Community-based Sample of Emerging Adults

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2017
5 pages
This article reports on a study that examined associations between high-risk gun carrying and substance use in emerging adults (ages 18–22), since the coexistence of these high-risk behaviors in a general population of emerging adults can have disastrous consequences.
The study used data from Dating it Safe, an ongoing longitudinal (2010–2016) survey of emerging adults recruited from seven high schools in five south-east Texas-area school districts (current sample n=684). Multiple logistic regression modeling was used to examine the association between past-year use of legal and illegal substances and past-year firearm carrying for a reason other than sport or hunting. The study found that 6 percent of emerging adults carried firearms in the past year, with most (68 percent) carrying for protection. Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, ecstasy and prescription medications in the past year, as well as episodic heavy drinking in the past month, was associated with increased risk of carrying a firearm (p<0.05 for all). After controlling for covariates, hallucinogens (OR 2.81, 95 percent CI 1.00 to 7.81), ecstasy (OR 3.66, 95 percent CI 1.32 to 10.14) and prescription medications (OR 2.85, 95 percent CI 1.22 to 6.68) remained associated with firearm carrying. Episodic heavy drinking was associated with firearm carrying, but only for those who had five or more episodes/month (OR 3.61, 95 percent CI 1.51 to 8.66). The study thus concludes that in this community-based sample of emerging adults, firearm carrying, mostly for protection, was associated with a variety of past-year substance-use behaviors. These findings extend previous research and suggest directions for further exploration of the clustering of high-risk behaviors in emerging adults. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: January 1, 2017