Differences in Young Adult Psychopathology Among Drug Abstainers, Experimenters, and Frequent Users


Shedler and Block offered the provocative proposal that individuals who experiment with drugs are psychologically healthier than either those who abstain completely or those who are frequent users. Not all studies have come to such conclusions, however. In an effort to specify under what conditions Shedler and Block's conclusions might hold, the present study examined three groups of drug users (abstainers, experimenters, frequent users) classified according to three different criteria: (a) marijuana use at age 20; (b) alcohol use during 10th grade; and (c) alcohol use at age 20. The three groups were compared at age 20 in terms of personality, deviant behavior, and psychopathology. The results revealed that abstainers were never more psychologically impaired, and were occasionally healthier, than experimenters. Frequent users of marijuana were consistently more impaired than both the abstainers and experimenters, in terms of both internalizing and externalizing disorders. Classification according to marijuana use appeared to be more related to psychopathology than did classification according to alcohol use.

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