Cross-substance patterns of alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use initiation in Black and White adolescent girls

Carolyn E. Sartor, Feifei Ye, Patricia Simon, Zu Wei Zhai, Alison E. Hipwell, Tammy Chung

Publish Year: 2022

Characterizing variations in the timing of alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use onset both among and between Black and White youth can inform targeted prevention. The current study aimed to capture cross-substance initiation patterns in Black and White girls and characterize these patterns with respect to substance use related socioeconomic, neighborhood, family, community, and individual level factors. Data were drawn from interviews conducted at ages 8 through 17 in an urban sample of girls (n = 2172; 56.86% Black, 43.14% White). Discrete-time multiple event process survival mixture modeling was used to identify patterns (i.e., classes) representing timing of alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use initiation, separately by race. Class characteristics were compared using multinomial logistic regression. Among both Black and White girls, four classes, including abstainer and cross-substance early onset classes, emerged. Two classes characterized by mid-adolescence onset (Black girls) and variation in onset by substance (White girls) were also observed. Class differences centered around cannabis for Black girls (e.g., preceding or following cigarette use) and alcohol for White girls (e.g., (in)consistency over time in greater likelihood of initiation relative to cigarette and cannabis use). Several factors distinguishing the classes were common across race (e.g., externalizing behaviors, friends’ cannabis use); some were specific to Black girls (e.g., intentions to smoke cigarettes) or White girls (e.g., primary caregiver problem drinking). Findings underscore the need to recognize a more complex picture than a high-risk/low-risk dichotomy for substance use initiation and to attend to nuanced differences in markers of risky onset pathways between Black and White girls…