Aims Continued progress in etiological research and prevention science requires more precise information concerning the specific stages at which socio-demographic variables are implicated most strongly in transition from initial substance use to dependence. The present study examines prospective associations between socio-demographic variables and the subsequent onset of alcohol and drug dependence using data from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) and the NCS Follow-up survey (NCS-2).
Design The NCS was a nationally representative survey of the prevalence and correlates of DSM-III-R mental and substance disorders in the United States carried out in 1990–2002. The NCS-2 re-interviewed a probability subsample of NCS respondents a decade after the baseline survey. Baseline NCS socio-demographic characteristics and substance use history were examined as predictors of the first onset of DSM-IV alcohol and drug dependence in the NCS-2.
Participants A total of 5001 NCS respondents were re-interviewed in the NCS-2 (87.6% of baseline sample).
Findings Aggregate analyses demonstrated significant associations between some baseline socio-demographic variables (young age, low education, non-white ethnicity, occupational status) but not others (sex, number of children, residential area) and the subsequent onset of DSM-IV alcohol or drug dependence. However, conditional models showed that these risk factors were limited to specific stages of baseline use. Moreover, many socio-demographic variables that were not significant in the aggregate analyses were significant predictors of dependence when examined by stage of use.
Conclusions The findings underscore the potential for socio-demographic risk factors to have highly specific associations with different stages of the substance use trajectory.