The Association Between Substance Use and Violence: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample of High School Students in the United States


With over 52% of high school students reporting that they have tried alcohol or illicit drugs, 16% carrying a weapon, and 23% engaging in a physical fight, substance use and youth violence remain critical public health challenges in the United States. Using data from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, study results revealed that youth who reported heavy use of either alcohol, marijuana, or illicit drugs were three to ten times more likely to report carrying a weapon or engaging in a physical fight. Similarly, youth with heavy substance use were one and half times to 14 times more likely to be a victim of violence or sexual or dating violence. The SEM analysis indicated that substance use had a significant effect on all aspects of violence. School-based behavioral health specialists and community-based pediatricians may need to develop targeted messages to address the potential for violence among youth who use alcohol and/or illicit drugs.

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A version of this paper was presented at American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, in 2018.


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Correspondence to Satish K. Kedia.

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Kedia, S.K., Dillon, P.J., Jiang, Y. et al. The Association Between Substance Use and Violence: Results from a Nationally Representative Sample of High School Students in the United States. Community Ment Health J 57, 294–306 (2021).

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  • Alcohol
  • Illicit drugs
  • Substance use
  • Violence
  • High school students