Sport participation and alcohol and illicit drug use in adolescents and young adults: A systematic review of longitudinal studies
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Sport participation can play an important and positive role in the health and development of children and youth. One area that has recently been receiving greater attention is the role that sport participation might play in preventing drug and alcohol use among youth. The current study is a systematic review of 17 longitudinal studies examining the relationship between sport participation and alcohol and drug use among adolescents. Results indicated that sport participation is associated with alcohol use, with 82% of the included studies (14/17) showing a significant positive relationship. Sport participation, however, appears to be related to reduced illicit drug use, especially use of non-cannabis related drugs. Eighty percent of the studies found sport participation associated with decreased illicit drug use, while 50% of the studies found negative association between sport participation and marijuana use. Further investigation revealed that participation in sports reduced the risk of overall illicit drug use, but particularly during high school; suggesting that this may be a critical period to reduce or prevent the use of drugs through sport. Future research must better understand what conditions are necessary for sport participation to have beneficial outcomes in terms of preventing alcohol and/or illicit drug use. This has been absent in the extent literature and will be central to intervention efforts in this area.
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