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Co-Occurrence of Substance Use Behaviors in Youth

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2008
0 pages

Using data from the first two waves of the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), this bulletin analyzes the prevalence and overlap of substance use among youth, with comparisons by age group, gender, and race/ethnicity.


The main finding is that the occurrence of one substance-use behavior made other substance-use behaviors more likely; for example, 9 percent of all youth ages 12-17 reported marijuana use, and 8 percent said they had sold drugs. Among youth who reported drinking alcohol (23 percent of all youth ages 12-17), the level of marijuana use was 32 percent, and the level of drug selling was 23 percent. In contrast, among youth ages 12-17 who did not report recent alcohol use, the level of marijuana use was 2 percent, and the level of drug selling was 3 percent. Of the youth who reported marijuana use, 81 percent also reported they drank alcohol, and 45 percent reported having sold drugs. Of the youth who reported selling drugs, 68 percent indicated they drank alcohol, and 54 percent reported marijuana use. In contrast, among youth who reported having sold drugs, 19 percent drank alcohol, and 6 percent used marijuana. Among those who sold drugs, both white and Hispanic youth were more likely than African-Americans to also report alcohol use; white youth who sold drugs were also more likely than African-Americans who sold drugs to report using marijuana. Generally, the levels of reported substance use steadily increased with age. Across age groups, there was a substantial overlap of drinking alcohol, using marijuana, and selling drugs. The NLSY97 involved self-reports from a nationally representative sample of youth ages 12-17. The survey asked about drinking alcohol and using marijuana in the previous 30 days, and ever selling marijuana, hashish, or other hard drugs. 4 tables and 7 figures

Date Published: November 1, 2008