The first study examines substance use and substance use risk among adolescents reporting varying degrees of involvement in violent attacks. Findings suggest that important differences in substance use risk and morbidity can be identified across varying levels of involvement in violence. This study points to multiple intrapersonal and contextual factors that can help identify youth at risk for substance use disorders and underscores the importance of substance use prevention among serious and chronically violent youth.
The second study builds upon this question by examining the prevalence and variants of substance use comorbidity among seriously violent offender youth in the United States. Findings points to an important degree of heterogeneity with respect to substance use morbidity among this population and underscore the fact that most violent offenders report limited substance use morbidity. However, we also identified critical subgroups of violent offenders with substantial substance use comorbidity and elevated risk for criminal justice system involvement.
The final study considers the developmental links between substance use and violence among adolescents and young adults. Utilizing a highly innovative approach, study findings suggest that the relationship between binge alcohol use and violent behavior is particularly robust during the early adolescent years and point to the importance of preventing binge alcohol use—particularly among younger adolescents—as a potential strategy for youth violence prevention.
The studies in this symposium present cutting-edge information that advances our capacity to map the intersections of substance use and violence in the lives of young people in the United States. A nuanced and well-informed understanding of substance use and violence is essential to the development and implementation of prevention and intervention programs designed to target these interrelated behaviors. Such programs have important implications for Social Work’s Grand Challenges, including ensuring that all young people get a healthy start in life, safely reducing the nation’s incarcerated population, and stopping family and interpersonal violence.