Does it matter if drugs are legal? Legalising decreases the influence of beliefs in a moral order in consumption among adolescents
Item LinksURI: http://hdl.handle.net/10818/36943
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/160663 ...
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Background: Drugs are likely to be legalised in the near future, potentially leading to increased consumption especially among adolescents, given the reduced prices and easier access. However, little is known about the individual-level psychosocial mechanisms that changing the legal status of drugs may activate or deactivate. We investigate the link between the legal status of drugs, the Belief in the Moral Order (BMO) and consumption of both legal and illegal drugs and the moderating effect of other risk and protective factors. Method: In two cross-sectional studies, samples of 1586 and 555 eleven to nineteen year-olds were assessed using the Communities That Care - Youth Survey, in terms of substance use, their beliefs in a moral order, and other risk and protective factors. We conducted conditional linear regressions to test the link between BMO and consumption of both illegal and legal substances, and the moderating role of coolness, self-control, and risk perception. Results: The negative association between BMO and substance use is five times greater for illegal substances than for legal ones. We also found that such a relationship is contingent on high perception of coolness, low self-control, and low-risk perception, but only for illegal substances. Conclusion: The legal status of drugs determines different ways in which prevention interventions should be implemented among segmented groups of adolescents, as legal status seems to trigger different psychosocial processes. In particular, illegality engages a complex interplay of BMO, social rewards, self-control, and risk perception. When substances are legal, this interplay is not observed.
Journal Addiction Research & Theory Volume 27, 2019 - Issue 6