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Firearm carrying and concurrent substance use behaviours in a community-based sample of emerging adults
  1. Robert N Buschmann,
  2. John D Prochaska,
  3. Jacques G Baillargeon,
  4. Jeff R Temple
  1. Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeff R Temple, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch, UTMB Ob/Gyn, Route 0587, 301 University Boulevard, 3.110 John Sealy Annex, Galveston, TX 77550–0587, USA; jetemple{at}


Introduction This paper examines associations between high-risk gun carrying and substance use in emerging adults (ages 18–22). The coexistence of these high-risk behaviours in a general population of emerging adults can have disastrous consequences.

Methods Dating it Safe is an ongoing longitudinal (2010–2016) survey of emerging adults recruited from seven high schools in five south-east Texas-area school districts (current sample n=684). Multiple logistic regression modelling was used to examine the association between past-year use of legal and illegal substances and past-year firearm carrying for a reason other than sport or hunting.

Results 6% of emerging adults carried firearms in the past year, with most (68%) carrying for protection. Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, ecstasy and prescription medications in the past year, as well as episodic heavy drinking in the past month, was associated with increased risk of carrying a firearm (p<0.05 for all). After controlling for covariates, hallucinogens (OR 2.81, 95% CI 1.00 to 7.81), ecstasy (OR 3.66, 95% CI 1.32 to 10.14) and prescription medications (OR 2.85, 95% CI 1.22 to 6.68) remained associated with firearm carrying. Episodic heavy drinking was associated with firearm carrying, but only for those who had five or more episodes/month (OR 3.61, 95% CI 1.51 to 8.66).

Conclusions In this community-based sample of emerging adults, firearm carrying, mostly for protection, was associated with a variety of past-year substance use behaviours. These findings extend previous research and suggest directions for further exploration of the clustering of high-risk behaviours in emerging adults.

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  • Contributors JRT conceptualised the study, supervised the study, and reviewed, revised and edited the manuscript. JDP assisted in study conceptualisation, data interpretation, and drafting and revision of the manuscript. JGB assisted in data interpretation, and revision and editing of the manuscript. RNB conducted the analysis, interpreted the data and drafted the manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by Award Number 2012-WG-BX-0005 (PI: Temple) from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIJ.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Texas Medical Branch Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.