Risk Factors for Substance Use across the Lifespan

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Substance use is a perennial public health concern with associated health risks and economic impacts on society. In this article, we present a selective review of the epidemiological and clinical literatures on alcohol and substance use from a lifespan developmental perspective. We compare and contrast risk factors for the initiation of use and the development of a substance use disorder in adolescence, young adulthood, middle-age and later life. During adolescence, alcohol use experimentation is at its peak. Specific risk factors have been identified including trauma and parenting style that can increase the risk of substance use for teenagers. Emerging adults and college students are likely to experiment with other substances in addition to alcohol such as nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, and prescription medication such as Adderall. Middle-age and older adults with alcohol and substance use in their developmental histories may have an undiagnosed alcohol use disorder. Others will develop a late-onset substance use disorder in older age, possibly due to a dearth of social support, coping with bereavement, and medical complication. Based on Social Cognitive Theory, the roles of expectancies and self-efficacy are hypothesized to impact substance use and the risk of substance use disorder across the lifespan. Implications of the present review for future research on age-specific risk factors in alcohol use in relation to underlying developmental processes are considered.

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The Journal of genetic psychology

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