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This study examines the impact of early adolescent drug use on subsequent dropping out of high school in a sample of 4,390 adolescents from California and Oregon. Participants were initially surveyed in 7th grade in 1985 and again in 1990 when they should have completed 12th grade. Logistic regression analyses show that frequency of cigarette use during 7th grade predicts dropping out of high school, controlling for demographics, family structure, academic orientation, early deviance, and school environment. Separate analyses by race/ethnicity replicate this finding for Asians, Blacks, and whites, but not for Latinos. For Latinos, early marijuana use predicts dropping out. The results suggest that preventing or reducing the incidence of early smoking and marijuana use may help reduce the probability of dropping out of high school.

Originally published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 28, no. 2, Spring 1998, pp. 357-380.

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