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Cumulative Risk of Substance Use in Community College Students

The enrollment at community colleges has greatly increased over the past 40 years with most research having a broad population including “college status” as overarching criteria. This lack of distinction may warrant research on specific substance use issues among community college students. The current study investigates substance use risk in community college students and the need for prevention and intervention services.

Data was collected form 288 participants over the age of 18 at Southwest Tennessee Community College. Participants completed questionnaires on demographics, substance use, life stressors, academic stressors, peer/family substance use, risky traits, mental health diagnoses, lack of social support, low access to care, and stressful childhood experiences. The mean age was 26, 75% of respondents were female, and the three most used substances were alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Results showed older participants were at higher risk to drink and added life stressors and peer/family substance use both increased drinking risk. Tobacco use was highest in older, Caucasian, male participants. Life stressors and peer/family substance use increased reports of tobacco use.

Marijuana use was most common in male participants and peer/family substance use and stressful childhood experiences increased likelihood of marijuana use. Finally, multiple drug use was most common in older, male, Caucasian participants. Those with peer/family substance use, lack of social support, low access to care, and stressful childhood experiences increased the likelihood of multiple hard drug use. This study has important implications for substance use at community colleges. It shows that prevention and intervention programs that focus on healthy relationships and community support may provide the most benefit. Also, they found that academic stressors, risky traits, and mental health diagnosis did not predict substance use. This means that focusing interventions around these factors may not be beneficial at community colleges.

Take Away: The current study investigates substance use risk in specific community college students and the need for prevention and intervention. The study took play at Southwest Tennessee Community College and 288 participants completed questionnaires surrounding substance use and stressors. They found older participants overall were more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and multiple drugs. They also found the common factors increasing potential for use was life stressors and peer/family substance use. This study shows that prevention and intervention programs that focus on healthy relationships and community support may be beneficial. Also, academic stressors, risky traits, and mental health diagnosis did not predict substance use meaning focusing interventions around these factors may not be beneficial at community colleges.

García, F. S., Bursac, Z., & Derefinko, K. J. (2020). Cumulative Risk of Substance Use in Community College Students. The American Journal on Addictions. doi: 10.1111/ajad.12983

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