Police Stops and Adolescent Substance Use: Findings From the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study

Dylan B. Jackson, Alexander Testa, Cashen M. Boccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of this study is to investigate associations between police stops and adolescent substance use among a large, representative sample of adolescents in the United Kingdom (UK). Methods: Data from the three most recent sweeps of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative contemporary birth cohort of children born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002, were analyzed in 2021 (N = 10,345). Lifetime police stops are assessed at age 14 (Sweep 6, 2015) and a diverse set of adolescent substance use behaviors are assessed at age 17 (Sweep 7, 2018). Weights are used to account for sample design and multiple imputation for missing data. Results: Youth experiencing police stops by the age of 14 (14.72%) reported significantly higher engagement in substance use behaviors at age 17, including frequent binge drinking (adjusted relative risk ratio [ARRR] = 3.56, confidence interval [CI] = 2.80–4.03), cigarette use (ARRR = 3.97, CI = 3.26–4.84), e-cigarette use (ARRR = 2.22, CI = 1.69–2.93), cannabis use (ARRR = 3.63, CI = 2.88–4.57), and illicit drug use (adjusted incidence rate ratio = 3.06, CI = 2.45–3.81). Ancillary analyses revealed that findings linking police stops to substance use emerge across distinct stop features (e.g., questioned vs. warned), following adjustment for substance use at age 14, and when examining substance use initiation after the age of 14. Conclusions: Police officers should be trained to effectively communicate and interact with youth to mitigate adverse sequelae of stops. Youth may also benefit from mental health and substance use screenings as well as counseling care following these events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-312
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Police
  • Substance use
  • United Kingdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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