Assessing teen risk behavior and later drug use
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The mechanisms of drug use and addiction influence drug policy-making and research; understanding these mechanisms is paramount to improving efficiency in drug-related research. The gateway drug hypothesis describes a progression of drug use from licit to illicit drugs. Our objective was to examine the likelihood of the gateway drug hypothesis versus a general risk taking personality that could manifest in drug use. Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), we examined age of first marijuana use, first cigarette use, first alcohol use, first sexual intercourse, number of times in a physical fight, and how these variables related to the likelihood a person tried cocaine. Our findings lend support to the theory that people, specifically teens, demonstrate a propensity towards risk-taking rather than drug specific behaviors. A longitudinal study would aid in clarification of the results.