University of Illinois at Chicago

Neurocognitive, Affective, and Psychosocial Correlates of Adolescent Substance Use

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posted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by Natania A Crane
Alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana are the most widely used substances among adolescents and young adults and their use is a significant public health concern, as it is associated with several negative health, psychosocial, and neurocognitive outcomes. Despite the high prevalence of the co-use of these substances, little is known about the neurocognitive, affective, and psychosocial correlates of poly-substance use in adolescence and the subsequent functional and neurocognitive outcomes associated with use in young adulthood. Although there is some evidence that pre-existing traits and brain abnormalities predict initiation of substance use, several studies suggest adolescents may also be particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol and marijuana, resulting in delayed neurodevelopment and poorer neurocognitive performance among users. Further, many studies have demonstrated psychological and psychiatric symptoms are associated with substance use, but no studies to our knowledge have prospectively measured how these factors may be related to adolescent substance use and subsequent neurocognitive functioning. Therefore, the current study examined how clinical risk factors contribute to subsequent cigarette, marijuana, and alcohol use during adolescence, in turn impacting neurocognitive functioning and psychosocial outcomes in young adulthood. Participants were young adults enrolled in a longitudinal study on the social and emotional contexts of adolescent smoking and have been followed for 8 years (N=1263). A subset of these individuals (n=80) was also recruited for a laboratory study visit to assess their neurocognitive functioning. It was hypothesized that individuals with more baseline clinical risk factors will have heavier poly-substance use, which will in turn be associated with poorer neurocognitive and functional outcomes. The results expanded upon previous studies, finding more depression and anxiety, poorer negative mood regulation, and lower GPA is related to more poly-substance over adolescence and young adulthood and more poly-substance use in adolescence and young adulthood is associated with poorer educational attainment in young adulthood, but we were not able to replicate findings of how substance use is associated with neurocognitive outcomes. Results indicate there is tremendous individual variability in use of cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol, factors related to use of these substances, and the effects of these substances on neurocognitive functioning.



Mermelstein, RobinLangenecker, Scott


Mermelstein, Robin



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Kassel, Jon Gonzalez, Raul Hedeker, Donald

Submitted date

May 2017

Issue date


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