Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Alcohol Use and Motivations for Drinking among Types of Young Adult Illicit Stimulant Users

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Alcohol Use and Motivations for Drinking among Types of Young Adult Illicit Stimulant Users

Article excerpt

Amphetamine-type stimulants are the second most widely used illicit drugs in Australia after cannabis (AIHW 2014). The use of these substances is relatively prevalent among young adults; in 2010, approximately 24 percent and 15 percent of Australians aged 20-29 years had ever used ecstasy or methamphetamine, respectively (AIHW 2011). Early adulthood is the peak age for both ATS use and for the harmful use of other licit and illicit substances (Stone, Becker, Huber & Catalano 2012). ATS users are predominantly polydrug users, often using ATS concurrently and simultaneously with other licit and illicit substances (Degenhardt et al. 2009; Gouzoulis-Mayfrank & Daumann 2006; Kirkpatrick, Gunderson, Levin, Foltin & Hart 2012).

The use of other substances in combination with ATS represents an emerging area of concern; a growing body of research suggests that such combined use may result in greater harm than separate use of these substances (Fisk, Murphy, Montgomery & Hadjiefthyvoulou 2011; Hedden et al. 2010). However, few studies have examined patterns of combined use or the motivations behind these combinations. The available evidence suggests users report a number of functions of the combined use of other substances with ATS, including:

* to produce pleasurable effects;

* to extend or prolong the effects of a substance;

* to enhance or intensify the effects of a substance; and

* to mitigate the negative effects of a substance (Hunt, Evans, Moloney & Bailey 2009).

One of the substances most commonly used concurrently or simultaneously with ATS by Australian users is alcohol (Breen et al. 2006; Kinner, George, Johnston, Dunn & Degenhardt 2012; Matthews, Bruno & Nicholls 2013). High rates of risky drinking (>5 standard drinks on a single occasion of use; see NHMRC 2009) have previously been observed among ATS users (Breen et al. 2006; Kinner et al. 2012; Matthews et al. 2013; McKetin, Chalmers, Sunderland & Bright 2014). Recent Australian research has observed that, in a sample of stimulant users, those who took stimulants on a night out drank at excessive levels, consuming a median of 20 standard drinks (McKetin et al. 2014). ATS use may facilitate binge or risky patterns of alcohol consumption. Individuals under the influence of ATS are potentially able to consume alcohol without experiencing its usual sedative effects (Hernández-López et al. 2002), consequently facilitating longer wakefulness and extended drinking episodes. Alternatively, ATS users may use alcohol to mitigate the unwanted effects of ATS such as anxiety, agitation and restlessness (Fisk et al. 2011). Further, users may combine ATS and alcohol to increase the desired subjective effects of either of these substances. It has been noted that the combined use of alcohol and ATS may produce a longer-lasting euphoria than the separate use of these substances (Hernández-López et al. 2002).

This study examines patterns of concurrent and simultaneous alcohol and ATS use among a population-based sample of Australian young adult ATS users, comparing users engaged in low-risk and risky use. Three key questions are addressed.

* Are young adult ATS users engaged in risky patterns of ATS use more likely to experience alcohol abuse and dependence?

* Do patterns of drinking during episodes of ecstasy and methamphetamine use differ between lowrisk and at-risk users?

* What are the potential motivations for combined alcohol and ATS use among young adult ATS users?

Method

Participants

The Natural History Study of Drug Use (NHSDU) is a prospective longitudinal study of drug use among young adults in South East Queensland, Australia, which commenced in 2009 (Smirnov, Kemp, Wells, Legosz & Najman 2014). A one-page drug use screening questionnaire was mailed to 12,079 young adults aged between 19 and 23 years of age, who were randomly selected from the Brisbane and Gold Coast electoral roll. …

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