Use of legal performance-enhancing substances (PES) in young adults is associated with an increased likelihood of future problematic alcohol use and drinking-related risk behaviors, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in Pediatrics.
Kyle T. Ganson, Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues analyzed prospective cohort data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health Waves I to IV for 1994 to 2008 to examine the temporal association of legal PES use with substance use behaviors. Data were included for 12,133 young adults aged 18 to 26 years.
The researchers found that 16.1 and 1.2 percent of young men and women, respectively, reported using legal PES in the past year. In young men, there was a prospective association for adolescent alcohol use with legal PES use (odds ratio, 1.39). Among young men, legal PES use was prospectively associated with increased odds of problematic alcohol use and drinking-related risk behaviors, including binge drinking; injurious and risky behaviors; legal problems; cutting down on activities and socialization; and emotional or physical health problems (adjusted odds ratios, 1.35, 1.78, 1.52, 1.91, and 1.44, respectively). Legal PES use was prospectively associated with elevated odds of emotional or physical health problems among young women (adjusted odds ratio, 3.00).
“These results provide further evidence in support of the gateway theory and prospective health risk behaviors associated with legal PES and substance use,” the authors write.