This study examined associations between high-risk gun carrying and substance use in emerging adults (ages 18-22).
Dating it Safe is an ongoing longitudinal (2010-2016) survey of emerging adults recruited from seven high schools in five south-east Texas-area school districts (current sample n=684). Multiple logistic regression modelling was used to examine the association between past-year use of legal and illegal substances and past-year firearm carrying for a reason other than sport or hunting. The study found that 6 percent of emerging adults carried firearms in the past year, with most (68 percent) carrying for protection. Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and prescription medications in the past year, as well as episodic heavy drinking in the past month, was associated with increased risk of carrying a firearm (p<0.05 for all). After controlling for covariates, hallucinogens (OR 2.81, 95 percent CI 1.00 to 7.81), ecstasy (OR 3.66, 95 percent CI 1.32 to 10.14) and prescription medications (OR 2.85, 95 percent CI 1.22 to 6.68) remained associated with firearm carrying. Episodic heavy drinking was associated with firearm carrying, but only for those who had five or more episodes/month (OR 3.61, 95 percent CI 1.51 to 8.66). Overall, in this community-based sample of emerging adults, firearm carrying, mostly for protection, was associated with a variety of past-year substance use behaviors. These findings extend previous research and suggest directions for further exploration of the clustering of high-risk behaviors in emerging adults. (publisher abstract modified)
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