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You are here: Home / MPRC People / Craig Fryer, Dr.P.H. / Craig Fryer Publications / Substance Use, Academic Performance, and Academic Engagement Among High School Seniors

B.A. Bugbee, K.H. Beck, C.S. Fryer, and A.M. Arria (2019)

Substance Use, Academic Performance, and Academic Engagement Among High School Seniors

Journal of School Health, 89(2):145-156.


Substance use is prevalent and is associated with academic performance among adolescents. Few studies have examined the association between abstinence from all substances and academic achievement.


Data from a nationally representative sample of 9578 12th graders from the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey were analyzed to examine relationships between abstinence from substance use and 4 academic variables: skipping school, grades, academic self-efficacy, and emotional academic engagement. Participants were categorized as lifetime non-users, former users, and past-year users based on the use of 14 substances.


Approximately one-fourth of participants had never used cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during their lifetime, and 8%wt used at least one substance during their lifetime but not during the past year. Adjusting for demographic variables, past-year substance users had 2.71 greater odds of skipping school during the past month than lifetime non-users and 1.74 greater odds of having low grades. Lifetime non-users reported greater academic self-efficacy and emotional academic engagement than past-year users.


Many 12th graders have abstained from all substance use during their lifetime, and these adolescents experience better academic outcomes than their substance-using peers. Substance use prevention programs should be evaluated as a way to promote academic achievement.

Fryer, Health, Health in Social Context
academic engagement, adolescents, truancy, academic performance, substance use
PMID: 30604451

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