Recanting of Life-Time Inhalant Use

How Big a Problem and What to Make of It

Published In: Addiction, v. 103, no. 8, Aug. 2009, p. 1373-1381

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Steven Martino, Daniel F. McCaffrey, David J. Klein, Phyllis L. Ellickson

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AIMS: To establish the prevalence of recanting of life-time inhalant use, identify correlates of recanting to gain insight to its causes and develop a method for distinguishing recanters who truly are versus are not life-time users of inhalants. DESIGN AND SETTING: Longitudinal survey data from students in 62 South Dakota middle schools who were participating in a field trial to evaluate a school-based drug prevention program. MEASUREMENTS: At grades 7-8, participants reported on their life-time inhalant use, other drug use and drug-related beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. FINDINGS: Forty-nine per cent of students who reported life-time inhalant use at grade 7 recanted their reports a year later. Comparison of students who recanted inhalant use with those who did or did not report inhalant use consistently on drug-related beliefs, attitudes and behaviors at grades 7 and 8 suggested that, whereas some inhalant use recanting reflects denial of past behavior, some reflects erroneous initial reporting. Based on a latent mixture model fitted to the multivariate distribution of grade 7 and grade 8 responses of recanters and consistent reporters, the authors calculated the probability that each recanter was, in fact, a life-time inhalant user. An estimated 67% of the recanters in our sample appear to be life-time inhalant users who admitted use in grade 7 and then denied that use at grade 8; 33% appear to be students who reported use incorrectly at grade 7 and then corrected that error at grade 8. CONCLUSIONS: Inhalant use recanting is a significant problem that, if not handled carefully, is likely to have a considerable impact on our understanding of the etiology of inhalant use and efforts to prevent it.

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