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Alcohol Use and Consequences in US College Students by Prescription Stimulant/Opioid Nonmedical Misuse Status

College student substance use and related consequences are large public health concerns across the U.S. It is known that college students frequently use alcohol and have elevated prescription opioid and stimulant misuse rates, and a new study is the first to examine the relationships between prescription drug misuse and alcohol use and consequences within this population.

In this study, data was collected through the 2016-2017 AlcoholEDU for College online prevention program, which is administered to about 36% of incoming college students across the U.S. to collect data on alcohol use, related consequences, and nonprescription use of opioids and stimulants.

The results of this study were analyzed based on grouping the participants as follows: no prescription drug misuse, opioid only misuse, stimulant only misuse, and misuse of both classes of drugs. The alcohol use behaviors and consequences were analyzed for each group. The results of this analysis indicated that alcohol use and alcohol related consequences such as a hangover were most common within the stimulant or opioid misuse only groups. Combined users were less likely to use alcohol or experience related consequences, but still significantly more than non-users. Overall, students who engaged in prescription drug misuse were more likely to use alcohol, have higher levels of alcohol use, and greater likelihood of alcohol-related consequences.

Take Away: College students who misuse prescription stimulants and/or opioids are more likely to drink alcohol, use higher quantities of alcohol, and experience negative consequences related to use compared to non-users. This relationship is more pronounced in opioid or stimulant use only groups.

Schepis, T.S., Acheson, S., Zapp, D., Swartzwelder, H.S. (2019). Alcohol use and consequences in matriculating US college students by prescription stimulant/opioid nonmedical misuse status. Addictive Behaviors. doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.06.015.

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