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Illicit drug use in English adolescent students–result of cumulative mediation analyses

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  • Poonum Wilkhu
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Substance Use
Issue number5
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)487-496
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date30/08/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: In England, drug use in young people increased significantly between 2014 and 2017. This upward trend continues despite implementation of drug use policies to reduce supply, possession and manufacture of illicit drugs. Taking the view that drug use is a learnt behaviour, the purpose of this paper is to evaluate whether social learning (SL) factors explain drug use in English adolescents across: a) nine regions b) by age (11 to 15 years) and c) by gender using the Social Structure Social Learning (SSSL) theory as a framework. This study addresses a gap in the literature on English adolescent students by identifying the strongest SL pathway to drug use (imitation, parental reinforcement, attitudes, peer association).Methods: Cumulative mediation analyses were carried out on data from the Smoking Drinking Drug Use Survey 2016 (N = 12,051) on adolescents aged 11–15 years across England.Results: The results show that imitation, peer association, attitudes and parental reinforcement mediate drug use at ages 12–14 and for some regions but not for gender.Conclusion: Drug use is a socially learnt behaviour in adolescents students living in England.