State Prevalence and Ranks of Adolescent Substance Use: Implications for Cancer Prevention

Jennifer L. Moss, Benmei Liu, Li Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction This study statistically ranked states’ performance on adolescent substance use related to cancer risk (past-month cigarette smoking, binge alcohol drinking, and marijuana use). Methods Data came from 69,200 adolescent participants (50 states and the District of Columbia) in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and 450,050 adolescent participants (47 states) in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Adolescents were aged 14 to 17 years. For 2011–2015, we estimated and ranked states’ prevalence of adolescent substance use. We calculated the ranks’ 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using a Monte Carlo method with 100,000 simulations. Spearman correlations examined consistency of ranks. Results Across states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking was 4.5% to 14.3% in NSDUH and 4.7% to 18.5% in YRBSS. Utah had the lowest prevalence (NSDUH: rank = 51 [95% CI, 47–51]; YRBSS: rank = 47 [95% CI, 46–47]), and states’ ranks across surveys were correlated (r = 0.66, P <.001). The prevalence of binge alcohol drinking was 5.9% to 14.3% (NSDUH) and 7.1% to 21.7% (YRBSS). Utah had the lowest prevalence (NSDUH: rank = 50 [95% CI, 40–51]; YRBSS: rank = 47 [95% CI, 47–47]), but ranks across surveys were weakly correlated (r = 0.38, P =.01). The prevalence of marijuana use was 6.3% to 18.7% (NSDUH) and 8.2% to 27.1% (YRBSS). Utah had the lowest prevalence of marijuana use (NSDUH: rank = 50 [95% CI = 33–51]; YRBSS: rank= 46 [95% CI, 46–46]), and ranks across surveys were correlated (r = 0.70, P <.001). Wide CIs for states ranked in the middle of each distribution obscured statistical differences among them. Conclusion Variability emerged across adolescent substance use behaviors and surveys (perhaps because of administration differences). Most states showed statistically equivalent performance on adolescent substance use. Adolescents in all states would benefit from efforts to reduce substance use, to prevent against lifelong morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE69
JournalPreventing Chronic Disease
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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