The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

3284.0: Monday, November 11, 2002 - Board 5

Abstract #46080

Cigarette, alcohol, and drug use among runaway youth: National rates and predictors of use

Sanna J. Thompson, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington, 211 S. Cooper, Box 19129, Arlington, TX 76019-0129, 817-272-3755,

Research suggests that by age 16 half of all adolescents use alcohol regularly and about one-quarter use marijuana. Although rates of substance use are challenging in general youth populations and some have pointed to down-trends in the general population, the pervasiveness of substance abuse is higher among youth who engage in high-risk behaviors. One area of particular concern is youth who have a history of running away as research suggests these youth are at particularly high risk for substance use, even double that of housed youths. What remains unclear, however, are factors that predict runaway adolescentís substance use. To address this gap, this study identifies rates of cigarette, alcohol, drug, and marijuana use across a national sample of runaway youth and examines the predictors of use among these youth. Data collected from federally-funded youth shelters nationwide (n=14,419) were used in this study. Results indicated that among these youth, 55% had smoked cigarettes, 55% drank alcohol, 47% used drugs and 42% used marijuana. Youths with higher suicide attempts, an extended runaway history, were older, lived primarily with someone other than a parent, were an ethnic minority, and irregularly attended school predicted cigarette, alcohol and drug use. However, higher suicide attempts, greater runaway episodes and being male predicted marijuana use. This study highlights the need to provide substance use treatment for runaway youths, especially in emergency shelters where these youth seek basic services. Policy decisions require further research, as limited information is available regarding substance use among this high-risk population.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

    Keywords: Adolescent Health, Drug Use

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Alcohol and Other Drug Use among Teens: Environmental and Resilience Factors Poster Session

    The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA