Indirect Effects of Theory of Mind on Alcohol Use and Problems in Underage Drinkers: The Role of Peer Pressure to Drink

Journal: Addictive Behaviors Reports, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.abrep.2022.100468

Authors: Lakshmi Kumar, Agnes Zhou, Bethany Sanov, Sara Beitler, Carillon J. Skrzynski & Kasey G. Creswell


Objective: Prior studies demonstrate a link between socio-cognitive deficits and alcohol problems in adolescents and young adults. Researchers have proposed that young people with such deficits may misperceive and over-value peers’ attitudes about drinking and consider drinking a way to be accepted by their peer group. We test this hypothesis by investigating whether theory of mind (ToM) deficits in underage (18-20-year-old) drinkers are associated with binge drinking and alcohol problems, and whether these ToM deficits have an indirect effect on alcohol outcomes through perceived peer pressure to drink (i.e., high conformity motives and low perceived ability to refuse alcohol during social pressure).

Method: Participants (N = 472; 91 % female; 71 % White; Mage = 19.28 ± 0.77) were recruited from TurkPrime and completed measures assessing ToM, conformity motives, self-efficacy to resist peer pressure to drink, alcohol problems, and binge drinking. Bivariate correlations were run to examine associations between study variables. Indirect effect models were run in SPSS, using the PROCESS add-on, to assess the indirect effects of ToM on alcohol outcomes through conformity motives and self-efficacy to refuse peer pressure to drink.

Results: ToM had indirect effects on binge drinking and alcohol problems through conformity motives (but not self-efficacy to resist peer pressure to drink). Lower ToM was associated with higher conformity motives, which were then associated with more frequent binge drinking and greater alcohol problems.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the role of social cognition in young adult alcohol misuse and suggest more work is needed to understand the potential influence of peer pressure in this association.

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An Illustrative Review of Substance Use-Specific Insights from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

Journal: Journal of Adolescent Health, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.08.025

Authors: Anna E. Austin, Rebecca B. Naumann, Kristin Y. Shiue, Leah Daniel, Bhavna Singichetti & Caroline N. Hays


Purpose: The purpose of this illustrative, thematic review was to demonstrate the utility of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) for substance use research and to describe substance use-specific insights gained from Add Health research over the past 2 decades.

Methods: We searched multiple electronic databases (PubMed, PsycInfo, and Web of Science) and selected an illustrative sample of 40 articles that used Add Health data and longitudinally examined a measure of alcohol, marijuana, or illicit drug use or prescription drug misuse as the exposure or outcome in association with diverse domains of additional factors assessed (social, emotional, behavioral, contextual, biological, and genetic).

Results: Included articles identified several key associations between substance use behaviors and additional factors from a wide range of domains. For example, results from several studies indicated that experiences of sexual violence, adolescent dating violence, and intimate partner violence are associated with an increased likelihood of later prescription opioid misuse, heavy drinking, and marijuana use, with some differences by biological gender and race/ethnicity. Results from other studies showed that bidirectional associations between substance use and mental health differ by specific type of substance and mental health condition.

Discussion: Existing research using Add Health data has provided valuable insights regarding substance use by leveraging the study’s longitudinal design, the prospective nature of data collection, the breadth and depth of substance use questions assessed from adolescence to adulthood, the size and diversity of the cohort, and the wide range of additional factors measured over time.

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Association of Recreational Cannabis Legalization with Alcohol Use among Adults in the US, 2010 to 2019

Journal: JAMA Health Forum, 2022, doi: 10.1001/jamahealthforum.2022.4069

Authors: Vandana Macha, Rahi Abouk & Coleman Drake


Importance: In the US, cannabis use has nearly doubled during the past decade, in part because states have implemented recreational cannabis laws (RCLs). However, it is unclear how legalization of adult-use cannabis may affect alcohol consumption.

Objective: To estimate the association between implementation of state RCLs and alcohol use among adults in the US.

Design, settings, and participants: This was a cross-sectional study of 4.2 million individuals who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2010 to 2019. A difference-in-differences approach with demographic and policy controls was used to estimate the association between RCLs and alcohol use, overall and by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and educational level. Data analyses were performed from June 2021 to March 2022.

Exposures: States with RCLs, as reported by the RAND-University of Southern California Schaeffer Opioid Policy Tools and Information Center.

Main outcomes and measures: Past-month alcohol use, binge drinking, and heavy drinking.

Results: Of 4.2 million respondents (median age group, 50-64 years; 2 476 984 [51.7%] women; 2 978 467 [58.3%] non-Hispanic White individuals) in 2010 through 2019, 321 921 individuals lived in state-years with recreational cannabis laws. Recreational cannabis laws were associated with a 0.9 percentage point (95% CI, 0.1-1.7; P = .02) increase in any alcohol drinking but were not significantly associated with binge or heavy drinking. Increases in any alcohol use were primarily among younger adults (18-24 years) and men, as well as among non-Hispanic White respondents and those without any college education. A 1.4 percentage point increase (95% CI, 0.4-2.3; P = .006) in binge drinking was also observed among men, although this association diminished over time.

Conclusions and relevance: This cross-sectional study and difference-in-differences analysis found that recreational cannabis laws in the US may be associated with increased alcohol use, primarily among younger adults and men.

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Impact of a Reduced Nicotine Standard on Young Adult Appeal for Menthol and Non-Menthol Cigarettes

Journal: BMJ Open, 2022, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-067694

Authors: Amy M. Cohn, Rachel Cassidy, Rachel Denlinger-Apte, Eric Donny, Andrea C. Villanti, Dorothy Hatsukami, … Sarah J. Ehlke


Introduction: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to reduce the nicotine content in cigarettes as a strategy to promote cessation and reduce smoking-related harm. A low nicotine product standard will apply to all cigarettes on the market, including menthol cigarettes. In December 2021, the FDA approved a modified risk tobacco product application for menthol and non-menthol flavoured very low nicotine cigarettes (VLNC) from the 22nd Century Group. Notably, experimentation with menthol cigarettes is linked to smoking progression, as well as greater nicotine dependence relative to non-menthol cigarette use. If menthol VLNCs are perceived as more appealing than non-menthol VLNCs, this would indicate that some aspect of menthol may maintain smoking even in the absence of nicotine and FDA’s regulatory authority to ban or restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes should apply to reduced nicotine content of cigarettes. In April 2022, the FDA announced proposed rulemaking to prohibit menthol cigarettes, however it is unclear if a menthol prohibition would apply to VLNCs.

Methods and analysis: This study will recruit 172 young adult menthol smokers (with a specific subsample of n=40 sexual and gender minority young adults) and measure appeal for smoking experimental menthol and non-menthol VLNCs, and the impact of proposed product standards on tobacco product purchasing behaviour using an Experimental Tobacco Marketplace. Appeal across product standards will be assessed in a controlled laboratory and using ecological momentary assessment.

Ethics and dissemination: The protocol was approved by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Institutional Review Board (#11865). Findings will examine the effects of a reduced nicotine standard and a menthol ban on young adult smoking and will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal articles and presentations at scientific conferences.

Trial registration number: NCT04340947.

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Cannabis, Connectivity, and Coming of Age: Associations between Cannabis Use and Anterior Cingulate Cortex Connectivity during the Transition to Adulthood

Journal: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2022, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.951204

Authors: Sarah D. Lichenstein, Daniel S. Shaw & Erika E. Forbes


Cannabis use is common among adolescents and emerging adults and is associated with significant adverse consequences for a subset of users. Rates of use peak between the ages of 18-25, yet the neurobiological consequences for neural systems that are actively developing during this time remain poorly understood. In particular, cannabis exposure may interfere with adaptive development of white matter pathways underlying connectivity of the anterior cingulate cortex, including the cingulum and anterior thalamic radiations (ATR). The current study examined the association between cannabis use during adolescence and emerging adulthood and white matter microstructure of the cingulum and ATR among 158 male subjects enrolled in the Pitt Mother and Child Project, a prospective, longitudinal study of risk and resilience among men of low socioeconomic status. Participants were recruited in infancy, completed follow-up assessments throughout childhood and adolescence, and underwent diffusion imaging at ages 20 and 22. At age 20, moderate cannabis use across adolescence (age 12-19) was associated with higher fractional anisotropy (FA) of the cingulum and ATR, relative to both minimal and heavy adolescent use. Longitudinally, moderate and heavy extended cannabis use (age 12-21) was associated with reduced positive change in FA in the cingulum from age 20 to 22, relative to minimal use. These longitudinal results suggest that cannabis exposure may delay cingulum maturation during the transition to adulthood and potentially impact individuals’ functioning later in development.

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