Young adulthood has been shown to be a time of increased substance use. Yet, not enough is known about which factors contribute to initiation and progression of substance use among young adults specifically during the transition year away from high school. Objectives: A narrative review was undertaken to increase understanding of the predictors of changes in use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, other illicit drugs, and mental health problems among young adults during the transition period after high school. Methods: A review of academic literature examining predictors of the use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis, and co-morbidities (e.g., co-occurring substance use and/or mental health issues) among young adults transitioning from high school to post-secondary education or the workforce. Results: Twenty six studies were included in the review. The majority of the studies (19) examined substance use during the transition from high school to post-secondary settings. Seven studies examined substance use in post-secondary settings. The studies consistently found that substance use increases among young adults as they transition away from high school. During the transition away from high school, common predictors of substance use include substance use in high school, and peer influence. Common predictors of substance use in post-secondary education include previous substance use, peer influence, psychological factors and mental health issues. Conclusions/Importance: Further research on social contextual influences on substance use, mental health issues, gender differences and availability of substances during the transition period is needed to inform the development of new preventive interventions for this age group.
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