Influential factors in college drinking

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

What influences students’ college drinking decisions?

  • Do friends peer pressure them?
  • Do they do it because they are bored?
  • Do they drink to relieve depression or anxiety?

Researchers recently tried to answer these questions by surveying college students…

65% of the participants reported having at least one drink in the past three months. It was astonishing that the typical number of drinks in a week was 10.5 and on a weekend was 7.3 average drinks. These numbers included drinkers and nondrinkers and was the average (meaning around half the people had more drinks as those had less). This indicates that college drinking is far more extreme than drinking happening outside of the college setting.

3 main influential factors for someone’s decisions in college drinking and to what extent:

  • If their close friends were drinking,
  • How drunk they thought they were, and
  • Their drinking intentions.

Interestingly enough, the more students thought others on their campus approved of drinking, the less they tended to drink. We recently reported similar misconceptions about students, their peers and marijuana use. Typically, if people intend to get drunk they use less protective factors (see here for a previous post about these) such as pacing or eating or keeping track of what they were drinking. Friends’ drinking was the best predictor of drinking habits in all cases.

You can tell a lot about a person by watching their friends, so watch who you surround yourself with. Those who think favorably of drinking tend to think they can drink more before reaching intoxication and also tend to hang out with others who do the same. However, these people are the ones that need the most intervention yet are the most difficult to change.

Those who socialize with a wide variety of people typically are lighter drinkers and tend to respond better to treatment immediately as well as have fewer problems further down the line. The heavier drinkers benefit more from motivational interventions focusing on their attitudes toward drinking.

Regardless of stereotypes, ethnicity, weight and gender did have an effect on any of these findings. It was peoples’ closest friends that were the most significant factor in influencing all aspects of college drinking.

Citation:
Examining the Unique Influence of Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Drinking Perceptions on Alcohol Consumption among College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Volume 70, 2, March 2009

Alcohol, sleep, and school work: College drinking and GPA

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

We all know that college students often party and sleep more than they actually study.  But do heavy alcohol use and poor sleep patterns cause poor grades?

A recently published study found that just altering bed times by 2 hours can throw off your sleepiness during the day.  Most students in the study did show a 2-4 hour difference in daily bed times between weekdays and the weekend, and most went to bed after midnight.

The average number of drinks for participants came in around 6 drinks a night (equal for men and women).

The big question is: can these heavy drinkers in college still perform well academically? (See here for influential factors in college drinking)

No matter what the cause, insufficient sleep causes poor academic consequences.  Interestingly, those students who reported much more sleep also had lower GPAs (oversleep was mostly assumed, by the researchers, to be caused by drinking and staying up too late, though it could have been due to other issues such as depression).

Overall, those that drank more often went to sleep later and also had bigger gaps between weekday and weekend bedtimes, all of which correlated very highly with a lower GPA.

Citation:

Singleton, Wolfson (2009). Alcohol Consumption, Sleep And Academic Performance Among College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 70, 355-363)

College drinking and frats – A match made in alcohol heaven?

contributing author: Gacia Tachejian

animal-houseIf you asked college students in America what goes on at a Fraternity or Sorority party they would tell you that drinking alcohol is a major component. The movie Animal House made heavy college drinking a well known fact decades ago, and research backs it up.

Studies have consistently shown that the highest rates of heavy alcohol use and alcohol disorders occur in the college-age population. But who’s to blame? Although heavy alcohol use has been documented within Greek organizations, the question of whether the Greek environment fosters substance use or whether heavy substance users chose to be in Greek environments has not been researched until now.

In order to find out whether the Frats/Sororities were the main influence for heavy alcohol use or if individuals joining the Greek organizations were simply heavier alcohol abusers researchers recently collected data from 3,720 pre-college students who were then followed for the 4 years of college they enrolled in (talk about a lot of work).

Of the almost 4000 participants there were students who joined the Greek environment and those who didn’t. Also, there were students who were late joiners and students who joined but withdrew before they graduated. After looking at all the different categories, one thing was apparent:

Students, who at any given period were part of a fraternity or a sorority, drank more alcohol and had more negative, alcohol-related consequences while being a member of a Greek organization. Also, once they deactivated, those participants drank less and had less drinking-related consequences.

The real issue as to why this is so important has to do with the consequences of alcohol use. Problems like drinking and driving (and possible DUI arrests), alcohol abuse, alcohol poisoning, and violence are a serious problem among college students. Apparently, Greek Environments make these consequences more likely.

It’s important to note: If the only finding her was that participants in the Greek system drank more alcohol or were more likely to drink alcohol at all that would be one thing (this findings was also true here by the way), but the fact that they were also more likely to have negative consequences associated with their drinking suggests that interventions might be useful within this college-environment.

Something to think about next time you’re bored on a Thursday night…

Citation:

Park, Aesoon, Sher, J., Kenneth, S., & Krull, L., Jennifer (2008) Risky Drinking in College Changes as Fraternity/Sorority Affiliation Changes: A Person – Environment Perspective. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol. 22, No. 2, 219-229.

420, smoking weed, and drug problems : Marijuana facts

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

It’s April 20th, or 4-20, and anyone who smokes marijuana knows what that means – It’s time to smoke weed- a lot of weed!

In honor of this “stoner” holiday, or perhaps in reverence of its implications, I wanted to put together a post that explored some recent findings having to do with the most commonly used illegal substance in the U.S.
These two studies deal specifically with smoking weed, teenagers, and drug problems.

Study 1 – Misconceptions of marijuana use prevalence

An article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has revealed that most young adults greatly overestimate how many of their peers smoke weed. Teens surveyed believed that 98% of their peers smoked marijuana at least once a year – In reality, only 51.5% off the teens reported actually ever smoking marijuana.

To make matters worse, even though only 15% of the teens reported using once a month or more, the estimate among peers was closer to 65%!!! Since we know that perception of peer behavior affects adolescents greatly, such misconceptions can easily lead to false peer-pressure towards marijuana use.

So next time instead of assuming everyone smokes weed, think again.It’s one of the most commonly used drugs but the notion that everyone smokes weed is simply wrong.

Reference: Kilmer, Walker, Lee, Palmer, Mallett, Fabiano, & Larrimer (2006). Misperceptions of College Students Marijuana use: Implications for Prevention. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67, pp. 277-281.

Study 2 – Teens reducing use can reduce marijuana dependence risk

This next study dealt with early patterns of weed smoking as possible predictors of later problems use. They followed more than 1500 respondents from adolescence (ages 15-17) into young adulthood (ages 21-24).

The article revealed some interesting overall patterns, but I’ll keep the results short and simple, it is 4-20 after all…

The good news? Teens who reduced their use during the first phase of the study (the teens years) were at a significantly lower risk for marijuana dependence and regular use in early adulthood. This suggests that successful interventions may be effective at reducing later problem use.

The bad news? All marijuana smokers who used at least weekly showed the highest risk for later problems even if they reduced their use… This is not that surprising of a finding though since dependence usually involves regular use.

The bottom line? Reducing marijuana use at any stage will lower your risk for later problem use, but those who find themselves smoking often are most likely to end up in some trouble even if they try to cut down. Knowledge is power, so if you think you might be at risk and are concerned, talking to someone can’t hurt. Knowing marijuana facts can’t hurt either.

Reference: Swift, Coffey, Carlin, Degenhardt, Calabria & Patton (2009). Are adolescents who moderate their cannabis use at lower risk of later regular and dependent cannabis use? Addiction, 104, pp 806-814.

For a different view on 420, see this video:


About Addiction: Heroin, Alcohol, Smoking, and Coffee

New, interesting, informative articles about addiction to heroin, alcohol, smoking, and coffee drinking . We have some new sites with links listed here. Give us your feedback on what you like!

Heroin and opiate addiction

Cesar Fax: The number of admissions to state-funded substance abuse treatment facilities citing opiates other than heroin as substance of abuse continues to increase. Admissions for the abuse of opiates, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, have increased from 1.2% in 1998 to 5.9% in 2008.

Alcohol Abuse and related issues

University of Maryland: Heavy drinking among college students, and alcohol-impaired driving, are major public health issues. Alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors increase significantly when college students reach age 21, especially for male drivers.

The Journal of Early Adolescence: Family meals are associated with reductions in alcohol and tobacco consumption in girls. Apparently, the family that eats together has girls that drink and smoke less!

Chicago Tribune: A new state law will requires stores to check a photo ID for anyone purchasing alcohol. This law will apply to liquor stores, convenience stores, pharmacies and supermarkets in Indiana, but not to restaurants or  bars.

Science Daily: Excessive drinking is responsible for approximately 79,000 deaths annually in the United States. Binge drinking accounts for more than half of these deaths.

Smoking cigarettes and health

USA Today: There will be a ban against using words such as “light” or “mild” on cigarette labels and ads. Now, tobacco companies have lightened package colors to convey the same message.

ABC news: In 2005, there were just 18 smoke-free colleges. Today, there are 394 smoke-free colleges. This number seems to continuously grow.

Health Day: Secondhand smoke may now be tied to an increase in mental woes. Exposure to secondhand smoke could up the odds for psychological distress, depression, schizophrenia and delirium.

Boston.com: An estimated 40 percent of Connecticut’s Medicaid recipients smoke. The state pays about $507 million yearly for smoking-related health care for its Medicaid clients.

Health Day: Increasing cigarette taxes can cause smoking rates to go down among people struggling with alcohol, drug or mental disorders. Raising the price of cigarettes by just 10 percent could cause more than an 18 percent drop in smoking among these individuals.

Alcohol, Smoking, and Coffee

Health Day: Alcohol, smoking and coffee drinking is linked to higher rates of migraine and tension headaches among teens and young adults. Around 5 to 15 percent of high school students reported suffering from migraines, and 15 to 25 percent reported that they have tension headaches.

About Addiction: Basics, Smoking and drugs

Whether you are interested in addiction as a whole or specific drugs, we have it all here.  Read on for some interesting breaking news and informative articles.

Addiction Basics

Addiction in Recovery: Alcohol and drugs are not the only addictions looming over US college students heads. This article reveals that cut off from the Internet, social media, cell phones and devices like iPods and TVs, students experience agitation, aggression, slight depression and a sudden overabundance of time.

PRLog: Some basic addiction statistics.  In 2001 almost thirty percent of kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen reported using drugs.

Smoking

Medical News Today: This article discusses a study which found that Arizona’s smoking ban reduced hospital visits.  Since the 2007 state law took effect, admissions for ailments related to secondhand smoke have declined by as much as 33 percent.

Health Today: A new study found that Americans could suffer 18,000 fewer attacks per year, save millions in health costs if all states banned smoking in restaurants, offices and other public spaces nationwide.

Medical News Today: The medical marijuana boom is always a prevalent topic. According to this article, fourteen states in the US plus the District of Columbia have passed laws intended to give certain ill people legal access to medical marijuana.

Other Drugs

Harm Reduction Journal: This is about a case study examining the closure of a large urban fixed site needle exchange in Canada. The article concludes that closing the fixed site needle exchange had an adverse effect on already vulnerable clients and reduced access to effective comprehensive harm reduction services.

AP News Break: The investment and crackdown of drug war in Mexico have failed to halt drug-related violence, which has killed 23,000 Mexicans in the past three years, or the availability of drugs in the U.S. marketplace, the world’s biggest. Obama said Tuesday that he would send as many as 1,200 National Guard troops back to the US- Mexico boarder to help battle illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Science Daily: Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have produced the first evidence that the opioid blocker extended-release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX) is able to reduce the brain’s response to cues that may cause alcoholics to relapse.

About Addiction- marijuana, tanning, tobacco and more

We have some great new weekly links for you to enjoy and learn from this week.  And as always please give us feedback if there are topics you would like to see more/less of in our weekly links and articles so we can best help you.

CNBC: This article talks about the legalization of marijuana. It talks about a poll that found support for legalization to be as high as 56% of those polled.

Center for substance abuse research: College students celebrating their 21st birthday drink more than anticipated. They drink an average of 12 drinks though researchers had predicted about 7 .

AOL StyleList: This article describes a new study that states that tanning is as addictive as drug abuse. The research was conducted using a questionnaires given to 421 students.

And students who tan may be different than others in other ways as well, according to the new study (reported on in Business Week as well), which found that students who tan drink more alcohol and smoke more pot. 42% of tanning addicts reported to use more than one drug in the previous month.

New England Journal of Medicine: This article talks about tobacco product regulation. According to the article, tobacco use causes 400,000 deaths annually in the United States. It talks about the by Obama signed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

CNN: This article talks about a Nicotine vaccine that is promising. Researchers announced a vaccine that would help smokers stop smoking at a national meeting this week.

Psychology Today: This article states that when someone deals with mental illness and drug abuse his or her treatment is complicated and more difficult. The article states several reasons why it is more difficult to treat mental illness and drug abuse when they are co-morbid.