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Anxiety as a Predictor of Age at First Use of Substances and Progression to Substance Use Problems Among Boys

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Abstract

This study examined associations of generalized and social anxiety with (1) age at first use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana and (2) interval from first use to first problem use of each substance. Participants were 503 males who comprised the youngest cohort (first assessed in the first grade) of the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal community-based study of boys. Annual assessments of generalized and social anxiety, delinquency, and substance use from first grade through high school were included. Both types of anxiety predicted earlier first use of alcohol and tobacco, and generalized anxiety predicted earlier first use of marijuana. Both types of anxiety predicted the progression from first use to problems related to marijuana. The effect of generalized anxiety tended to be significant above and beyond the effect of delinquency, while the effect of social anxiety on risk for first use of substances was not. Overall, the associations between anxiety and substance use and related problems depend on the class of substance and the type of anxiety.

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Acknowledgements

Preparation of this paper was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K01DA022456, DA411018 and DA17552), the National Institute on Mental Health (MH73941 and MH50778), and the U.S. Department of Justice (96-MU-FX-0020). Points of view or opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the National Institutes on Drug Abuse And Mental Health. The authors thank Rebecca Stallings for her help with the data preparation.

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Correspondence to Naomi R. Marmorstein.

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Marmorstein, N.R., White, H.R., Loeber, R. et al. Anxiety as a Predictor of Age at First Use of Substances and Progression to Substance Use Problems Among Boys. J Abnorm Child Psychol 38, 211–224 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9360-y

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