Anxiety, depression, and substance experimentation in childhood


Previous research has demonstrated that adults with comorbid depressive and anxiety disorders are significantly more likely to show pathological use of drugs or alcohol. Few studies, however, have examined associations of this type in children. A better understanding of the relationships between affective disorders and substance experimentation in childhood could help clarify the complex ways in which pathological substance use symptoms develop early in life. The present study included 11,785 children (Mage = 9.9) participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Depressive and anxiety disorder diagnoses were evaluated as concurrent predictors of experimentation with alcohol and tobacco. A series of linear regressions revealed that children with either depressive or anxiety disorders were significantly more likely to experiment with alcohol or tobacco. However, children with both depressive and anxiety diagnoses were not more likely to experiment than children without a diagnosis. These results suggest that anxiety or depressive diagnoses in childhood may be associated with a greater likelihood of substance experimentation, but severe psychological distress may suppress these effects.