Author(s): Nicoletta Balbo, Andrea Bonanomi, Francesca Luppi
Keywords: adolescents,drugs,Europe,perceived risk,polydrug
The general decline in alcohol and tobacco consumption among teenagers in recent years has been interpreted as a success of the European governments campaigns to increase adolescents’ awareness about the risk associated to drug use. At the same time, polydrug users – those who make use of more than one substance – are becoming a prevalent group among adolescent substance users. This evidence raises the question of whether the traditional approach to study risk perception related to substance use could be improved. Research in this field always deals with substance-specific risk perception indicators, while it lacks of a composite and synthetic measure of risk perception related to the overall attitudes towards substances use. This study explores whether there is a unique overall perception of risk associated with different legal and illegal substances use. Specifically, by making use of ESPAD data, we explore whether it is possible to derive an overall measure of attitude toward drugs consumption, by combining a set of indicators of risk perception regarding different types of substances (i.e. alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illegal drugs) and different frequencies of use (i.e. sporadic versus regular). Factor analysis results provide evidence of the existence of three indexes of perceived risk associated, respectively, to the use of legal drugs, the sporadic use of illegal drugs and the regular use of illegal drugs.