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Substance use among young adults in the ACT : findings from the PATH Through Life project

Australian Institute of Criminology, Tanya Caldwell
09 September 2005 -

Tanya Caldwell, Amanda George and Bryan Rodgers


Tobacco, marijuana and alcohol are the most commonly used drugs amongst young adults and in the population as a whole. Use of ecstasy is also widespread amongst young people especially, and is seen in groups that may not ordinarily be associated with illicit substance use. The presentation focused on young people's substance abuse based on the analysis of data from the PATH Through Life Project - a longitudinal study conducted by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. At the first wave of interviews in 1999 participants from Canberra and Queanbeyan (aged 20-24 years, n=2404) were asked about their use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. At wave 2, in 2003, assessment of ecstasy and amphetamine use was also included.

The first part of the presentation described a range of characteristics associated with using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, extraversion, education, and recent stressful life events. The second half of the presentation highlighted the characteristics associated with ecstasy use among young adults, including use of other substances, and demonstrates that there are many within-group differences among users of ecstasy.

About the presenters

Tanya is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. She has worked on the PATH through life project, investigating patterns of association linking tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use with high prevalence mental health problems (depression and anxiety).

Amanda is currently a PhD candidate based at the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research and she previously completed an Honours degree in Psychology. She is particularly interested in the associations of ecstasy use with mental health and cognition, and her thesis research investigates these links in the PATH Through Life 20+ study.

Bryan is a Senior Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and a NHMRC Research Fellow. His research interests include associations between substance use and other mental health problems, and the interrelationship of family circumstances with mental health and substance use.

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