This research examined patterns of substance use and academic factors among a sample of 733 African-American and European-American adolescents from a metropolitan area. First, youth were classified into 11th grade high, moderate, or no substance use groups and classified as users, initiators, desistors, and nonusers based on eighth and 11th grade use. Nonusers did not differ in eighth grade from 11th grade moderate users and initiators over time. Eighth graders who reported misbehavior and having low-achieving friends were more likely to be high 11th grade users and users at both grades. Direct achievement effects were not found; however, interactions indicated achievement was protective when paired with having fun at school, high task value, and low levels of socioeconomic status (SES); and was a risk factor when paired with positive self regard, low fun at school and high SES. Cluster analyses indicated the most prevalent group of substance users reported high grades, social reasons for going to school, and having friends who do well in school.