The Decline of Substance Use in Young Adulthood: Changes in Social Activities, Roles, and Beliefs

By Jerald G. Bachman; Patrick M. O'Malley et al. | Go to book overview

6
Perceived Risks
and Disapproval of Smoking,
Heavy Drinking, and Illicit Drug Use

Young people's views about various substances are closely linked to whether and how much they use those substances. Individuals who see great risk of harm in cigarette use also are likely to disapprove cigarette use, and such individuals are unlikely to be smokers. The same connections between attitudes and behaviors hold for heavy drinking, marijuana use, and cocaine use.

It is hardly surprising that attitudes about substances correlate with actual use, of course, but much remains unsettled about the nature and direction of causal connections. Do drug-related attitudes cause or contribute to patterns of use? Undoubtedly they do. But opposite causal relationships also are plausible, as when someone tries using a substance and, as a direct consequence of that experience, has a change in opinion about the risks of such use. As one example, those trying marijuana and detecting no adverse effects might revise their perceived risks downward, and that would contribute to the overall negative correlation found between perceived risks and marijuana use. Alternatively, those experiencing negative consequences after drinking a lot might increase their perceived risks of drinking heavily, and that would tend to diminish the overall negative correlation between perceived risks and heavy drinking (at least, past heavy drinking).

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