Objective: Youth who report risky substance use and who have a familial history of substance use disorders (SUDs) are at increased risk for developing SUDs themselves later in life. Physiological stress reactivity may be a potential biological mechanism underlying this increased risk. In the current study, we examined (a) whether physiological stress reactivity to a psychosocial stressor was prospectively related to risky substance use later in adolescence and (b) whether this relation was moderated by a familial history of SUDs.
Method: Youth from the general population (n = 220) and the children of a parent/parents with an SUD (CPSUDs; n = 60) participated in a psychosocial stress procedure at Time 1. Cortisol and heart rate reactivity were measured during the procedure. Four years later, on average, risky substance use was self-reported (Time 2).
Results: Logistic regression analyses showed that youth who had lower cortisol reactivity at Time 1 were more likely to report risky substance use at Time 2. Heart rate reactivity was not related to risky substance use at Time 2, and the relation between stress reactivity and risky substance use was not more pronounced in CPSUDs compared with youth from the general population. These analyses were controlled for alcohol use at Time 1.
Conclusions: The present findings suggest hyporeactivity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis in youth who are more likely to engage in risky substance use later in adolescence. These individuals may be inherently hypoaroused, which leads them to seek out substances in order to achieve a more normalized level of arousal.

doi.org/10.15288/jsad.2016.77.208, hdl.handle.net/1765/82496
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Department of Psychology

Evans, B., Greaves-Lord, K., Euser, A., Thissen, S., Tulen, J., Franken, I., & Huizink, A. (2016). Stress reactivity as a prospective predictor of risky substance use during adolescence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77(2), 208–219. doi:10.15288/jsad.2016.77.208