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Diagnostic sequence of cocaine use disorder in relation to other mental health conditions among college students

Substance use and mental health of college students are growing public health concerns, and a recent study aimed to identify comorbidities in relation to cocaine use among college students in particular.

In this study, cocaine-related visits to a campus student health center psychiatry clinic from 2005-2015 were analyzed to identify mental health concerns and criteria for cocaine use disorder (CUD). The most common mental health conditions among these students were identified and compared to diagnoses of CUD.

The results showed that alcohol use disorder, anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, cannabis use disorder, tobacco use disorder, and combined drug use disorders were the most common comorbidities of CUD among 50 unique CUD cases. People were more likely to present with anxiety and depression before diagnoses of CUD, while other drug use disorders were often diagnosed at the same time as CUD. This shows that perhaps college students don’t get help for their substance use until it becomes a more serious problem involving harmful use of other substances. Overall these findings suggest that anxiety and depression can be seen as risk factors, and that polysubstance use is common among cocaine-using college students. These factors can be used in future prevention efforts and treatment on college campuses.

Take Away: Anxiety and depression are common among students who are later diagnosed with cocaine use disorder. Students who are diagnosed with CUD at a student health psychiatric clinic are likely to be diagnosed with multiple substance use disorders concurrently.

Liu, Y., Ball, J.D., Elliott, A.L, Jacobs-Elliott, M., Nicolette, G. (2019). Diagnostic sequence of cocaine use disorder in relation to other mental health conditions among college students. Journal of American College Health

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