Substance Use and Violence in High School Youth

Recent research has found that adolescents who misuse alcohol and prescription drugs had a greater chance of sexual violence and teen dating violence victimization than just misusing alcohol alone. Therefore, the combination of the two can cause some significant damage for adolescents. Sexual violence from peers is extremely common in adolescents with either unwanted sexualized comments or touching.

Students were asked to complete surveys across two semesters from six Midwestern high schools. Three classes of substances were recognized: no use or low use, alcohol only use, and both alcohol and prescription drugs. Misusing both alcohol and prescription drugs as a teenager was a significant risk factor for later sexual violence and teen dating violence.

This study adds to the literature about the relationship between substance use and sexual violence/teen dating violence. Misusing prescription drugs along with alcohol can highlight the sexual violence and teen dating violence in adolescents because these types of drugs can be used often in romantic relationships during that age. Overall, the findings suggest that it would be beneficial for any effort to prevent sexual violence or teen dating violence in adolescents to focus on substance use and its impact on violence, specifically the use of drugs together. This study also points out that it would be beneficial to start prevention efforts at a young age, preferably before high school.

Espelage, D., Davis, J., Basile, K., Rostad, W., & Leemis, R. (2018). Alcohol, prescription drug misuse, sexual violence, and dating violence among high school youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63, 601-607.

By Kristina Koenig

Kristina Koenig is a senior double majoring in Human Development and Psychology with a minor in Business Administration. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she plans on using her degree to work with children.