Associations Between Abstinence in Adolescence and Economic and Educational Outcomes Seven Years Later Among High-Risk Youth

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, v. 113, no. 2-3, Jan. 15, 2011, p. 118-124

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Beth Ann Griffin, Rajeev Ramchand, Maria Orlando Edelen, Daniel F. McCaffrey, Andrew R. Morral

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AIM: In this study, we investigated the relationship between abstinence and long-term educational and economic outcomes among a sample of high-risk youth. METHODS: Multivariable regression models were used to estimate associations between abstinence and outcomes among a sample of 13-17 year-olds referred to group homes in Los Angeles in 1999-2000 and followed for 87 months afterwards. Abstinence was measured during the first year of the study. We considered differential effects based on the duration of abstinence (12 vs. 6 months) and type of abstinence (all substances vs. use of alcohol and/or marijuana) on three 87-month outcomes: having received a high-school diploma or equivalent by age 20, institutionalization in the past 90 days, and total legitimate income for the past 90 days. RESULTS: Abstinence from all substances for 12 months was associated with positive long-term educational and economic outcomes relative to using any drug during the same time interval. Abstaining from all substances for 12 months was also associated with an increased likelihood of being a legitimate wage earner and decreased likelihood of being institutionalized relative to using only alcohol and/or marijuana during that time interval. No effect on long-term outcomes was seen among youth who abstained for only 6 months relative to those who used drugs during this interval, or for youth who used only alcohol and/or marijuana over 12 months vs. those who used other drugs during this interval. CONCLUSIONS: The results presented here justify continued and expanded efforts to promote long periods of abstinence from all drugs for high-risk youth.

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