Substance Use Patterns Among Adolescents: A Latent Class Analysis

Heeyoung Lee, Kyeongra Yang, Joshua Palmer, Brayden Kameg, Lin Clark, Brian Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Substance use among adolescents remains a major public health concern, which is correlated with mortality. AIMS: The purpose of this study was to (1) examine risk factors predisposing adolescents to substance use and (2) identify patterns of simultaneous drug exploration among adolescents. METHOD: Data (N = 15,624; collected in 2015) were drawn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is a national school-based survey of 9th- to 12th-grade students to monitor health risk behaviors. Substance use was assessed using self-reported questionnaires, and latent class analysis and logistic regression were used for data analysis. RESULTS: Five latent patterns of substance use were identified: (1) abstinent (64%); (2) 1st-step social experimenter (25%) (i.e., used alcohol, e-cigarettes, and/or marijuana); (3) 2nd-step social experimenter (6%) (i.e., used alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and/or prescription pills); (4) pill experimenter (4%), (i.e., used prescription pills); (5) full experimenter (2%) (i.e., likely to use all assessed substances). Gender, race, grade, and depressive mood were strong predictors of membership in a particular substance use class. CONCLUSION: Adolescents presenting for care may possess symptoms associated with various substances beyond those being managed. Mental health nurses can leverage these results in reducing adolescent substance use through primary and secondary prevention. A longitudinal study of not only substance use patterns but also the progression to substance use disorders among adolescents is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-594
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health


  • adolescent
  • depression
  • substance abuse


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