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Has illicit drug use become normalised in groups of Swedish youth? A latent class analysis of school survey data from 2012 to 2015
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2019 (English)In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1455-0725, E-ISSN 1458-6126, Vol. 36, no 1, p. 21-35Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background:

It is often assumed that illicit drug use has become normalised in the Western world, as evidenced for example by increased prevalence rates and drug-liberal notions in both socially advantaged and disadvantaged youth populations. There is accumulating research on the characteristics of young illicit drug users from high-prevalence countries, but less is known about the users in countries where use is less common. There is reason to assume that drug users in low-prevalence countries may be more disadvantaged than their counterparts in high-prevalence countries, and that the normalisation thesis perhaps does not apply to the former context.

Aim:

This article aims to explore to what extent such assertions hold true by studying the characteristics of young illicit drug users in Sweden, where prevalence is low and drug policy centres on zero tolerance.

Material and Method:

We draw on a subsample (n = 3374) of lifetime users of illicit drugs from four waves of a nationally representative sample of students in 9th and 11th grade (2012–2015). Latent class analysis (LCA) on ten indicators pertaining to illicit drug use identified four classes which we termed “Marijuana testers”, “Marijuana users”, “Cannabinoid users” and “Polydrug users”.

Findings:

Indications of social advantage/disadvantage such as peer drug use, early substance-use debut and truancy varied across groups, particularly between “Marijuana testers” (low scores) and “Polydrug users” (high scores).

Conclusions:

Our findings corroborate the idea that the majority of those who have used illicit drugs in the Swedish youth population have tried marijuana a few times only. We discuss whether or not the comparably large share of socially advantaged “Marijuana testers” in a comparably small sample of lifetime users can be interpreted as a sort of normalisation in a prohibitionist drug policy context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 36, no 1, p. 21-35
Keywords [en]
youth, illicit drug use, LCA, subgroups, Sweden
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162652DOI: 10.1177/1455072518814306ISI: 000458207600003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-162652DiVA, id: diva2:1268328
Available from: 2018-12-05 Created: 2018-12-05 Last updated: 2019-03-04Bibliographically approved

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Karlsson, PatrikEkendahl, MatsMånsson, Josefin
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