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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana Use during the Initial Transition to College

Many studies have highlighted the public health concern of substance use among college students. A new study specifically examined the transition period between high school and college and surveyed students during this time period to understand changes in substance use.

In this study, a cohort of students was surveyed one week before they moved into campus housing and started their first year of college. This survey assessed their health related attitudes, demographic information, and substance use behaviors. After one week of the academic semester had passed, each student completed a brief survey each morning for 10 days. Each day they responded if they had engaged in alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana use the previous night. They were also asked about sleep patterns and class attendance.

The data showed that alcohol was the most commonly used substance, with 54% of students reporting that they had used alcohol in the past 30 days at the baseline survey and 43% reporting use during the 10 day period of surveys. 31% of students reported having used marijuana at baseline, and during the period of being surveyed 9% reported use. As for tobacco use, about 30% reported that they had used tobacco before beginning college. No tobacco use was reported during the time frame of the surveys, perhaps because of the short length of data collection.

A strong relationship existed between alcohol and tobacco use, with over 70% of students who had used tobacco before college reporting alcohol use within the 10-day period. Previous use of any of the substances correlated with continued use when the students began college, and this association was seen most strongly with alcohol and marijuana. Also, out of students who reported no previous substance use, 13.8% reported using alcohol while transitioning to college.

Take Away: Students who use substances before entering college are likely to continue to do so upon entering college. Also, students who previously did not use any substance are likely to use alcohol when transitioning to college.

Berhane, B., Ferketich, A.K., Roberts, M.E. (2019). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana Use during the Initial Transition to College. Health Behavior Policy Review. Doi.org/10.14485/HBPR.6.1.3

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