Matthew Fagan’s PhD Thesis Proposal

Title: The Athlete’s high? Can physical activity and sport participation prevent substance use in youth?

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Guy Faulkner
Committee Members: Dr. Eli Puterman, Dr. Rob Bedi, Dr. Scott Leatherdale
Dr. Bill Sheel

Abstract: Many Canadians consume psychoactive substances (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 2018, 2019a, 2020). This behaviour typically begins in adolescence and has negative consequences during adolescence and adulthood (DeWit et al., 2000; Schmid et al., 2007; Chassin et al., 2004; McCambride, McAlaney, Rowe, 2011). Based on a conceptual framework for experimental substance use in adolescence (Petraitis et al., 1995), physical activity and sport participation may provide an alternative approach to prevent substance use and its consequences (Dale et al., 2019; Weatherson et al., 2018). Physical activities have been cross-sectionally associated with many substances, with consensus about the directionality of the association still in question (Kaczynski et al., 2008; Lisha & Sussman, 2010). However, less is known regarding the longitudinal association between specific physical activities and substance use in youth as only sport involvement currently has been systematically reviewed (Kwan et al., 2014). Therefore, the purpose of this proposal is to outline a systematic approach to identify the gaps within this literature and attempt to address them in further empirical studies using a large sample of Canadian youth. The first study is a systematic review identifying what is currently known about the longitudinal association between physical activity, sport participation and subsequent substance use. Using the COMPASS data set, study two will address the identified gaps through a cross-sectional examination in a large sample of Canadian adolescents. Finally, study three will longitudinally examine if physical activity and sport participation are associated with the prevention of substance use. Implications from this work include potential advances in research, intervention development, and policy.