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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2020 Jan 9:1-7. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2019.1700266. [Epub ahead of print]

Gun access, ownership, gun-related experiences, and substance use in young adults: a latent class analysis.

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Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA.
Center for Violence Prevention, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, TX, USA.


Background: Substance use is found to associate with gun violence. However, mixed findings have been reported for gun access/ownership. To date, studies have examined gun access/ownership and gun-related experiences (e.g., carrying) separately despite the fact that gun-related experiences often occur among gun owners.Objectives: This study identifies groups of young adults based on their gun access/ownership and gun-related experiences (i.e., gun carrying, threatened someone with a gun, been threatened with a gun) and assesses whether these groups differ on their use of alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, hard drugs, and nonmedical use of prescription medication.Methods: This study uses cross-sectional data from Wave 8 of the study Dating it Safe. Participants were 663 young adults (Mean age = 22 years; 62% female). Latent class analysis (LCA) was performed.Results: LCA identified three classes: (1) Minimal Gun Access/Experience (65.0%), (2) Gun Access without Experience (33.4%), (3) Gun Access with Experience (1.6%). Individuals in the Gun Access with Experience class reported more frequent few past month alcohol (17 days vs. 7 and 8 days, p < .001), episodic heavy drinking (13 days vs. 2 and 3 days, p < .001) and cigarette use (21 days vs. 10 and 10 days, p < .001) compared to these in the Minimal Gun Access/Experience and Gun Access without Experience classes, respectively.Conclusions: Individuals who have access to/own guns with and without gun-related experiences face different risks of substance use. Findings highlight the need to examine gun access/ownership based on actual gun experiences and further emphasize the importance of addressing substance abuse for gun violence prevention.


Gun-related experiences; heavy drinking; latent class analysis; substance use; young adults

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