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Adverse Childhood Experiences, Ethnicity, and Substance Use among College Students: Findings from a Two-State Sample

College students have previously reported substance abuse along with adverse childhood experiences (ACE). However, this study specifically targets ACE-related substance use patterns throughout a diverse group of college students. If there is found to be any relationships, campus communities can use this knowledge to create culturally sensitive services to support these individuals.             

The data collected came from surveys including 7,148 college students from California and Minnesota. A multivariable model was used which allows the researchers to use multiple variables to make predictions. They looked at different associations between ACE with alcohol (including binge drinking), tobacco, marijuana, and other illicit substance use. These students included participants that are non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, African American/Black, Asian Pacific Islanders, multiracial, and other. They asked students about their use in the previous month before taking the survey.

The researchers found that out of those surveyed, 22% used marijuana, 28% used tobacco, 75% drank alcohol, 6% used an illicit drug (past year), and 30% said they binge drank in the previous 2-weeks. They found that ACE was associated with all the different types of substance use and that there was ethnic variation in ACE exposure. There was also ethnic variation between ACE and marijuana use, tobacco use, and binge drinking. All of this shows that there should be more research completed to help understand sociocultural influences in trauma response. By gaining this knowledge, college campuses can provide resources and other culturally sensitive services to help those with these issues.

Take Away: While it is known that college students may have high rates of substance abuse and adverse childhood experiences (ACE), this study specifically looks at patterns between these two variables among a diverse set of students. The researchers found that there is large ethnic variation between ACE exposure along with the relationship between ACE exposure and substance use. There should be more research completed to get insight into the sociocultural influences on these issues. This knowledge can be used to help implement services to help with addressing these issues specific to the diverse group.

Forster, M., Rogers, C. J., Benjamin, S. M., Grigsby, T., Lust, K., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2019). Adverse Childhood Experiences, Ethnicity, and Substance Use among College Students: Findings from a Two-State Sample. Substance Use & Misuse, 1–12. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2019.1650772

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