Substance Use Behaviors among College Students

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Taylor J. Thompson
Jessica Mueller
College of Nursing and Health Professions, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, USA

The Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2002) has identified that drinking on college campuses is a unique culture and changing this culture is a top priority. Within the drinking culture, binge drinking has emerged as a growing problem that has dangerous consequences. Binge drinking has been correlated with high-risk behaviors, such as unsafe sex, sexual assault, injuries, and even death (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], 2013).  The NIAAA (2013) defines binge drinking as 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within a few hours. The main objective of this study was to assess substance use behaviors among college students at a private, faith-based university in the Midwest and identify aspects that are associated with drinking on the college campus. Data were collected using a modified version of the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey: Long Form (Core Institute of Student Health Programs, 1994), which asks detailed questions about substance use behaviors. Following IRB approval, all undergraduate students (N = 3,052) during the 2014-2015 academic year were invited to participate in an online survey using Survey Monkey®. A total of 1,164 students responded and 1,095 completed the survey, yielding a 35.9% response rate. Results showed that 62.6% of respondents drank alcohol. There were differences in drinking behaviors based on Greek life affiliation, gender, and athletic participation. There was a statistically significant difference (X2 = 66.001, p < .001) based on Greek life affiliation; 83.9% of fraternity and sorority members drink alcohol compared to 57.3% not involved in Greek life.  Of all students who drank alcohol, 71.7% engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days. While there was no statistically significant difference in the rate of drinking alcohol based on gender (64% of males, 65.3% of females reported alcohol use), there was a statistically significant difference in binge drinking among males and females. Among drinkers, 76.5% of males engaged in binge drinking compared to 58.4% of females (X2 = 50.800, p = .001). However, there were no significant differences for binge drinking and Greek life affiliation or being an athlete. Of those in Greek life, 75.3% engaged in binge drinking compare to 60.3% not Greek-affiliated (X2 = 30.526, p = .106). Of those who reported being an athlete, 71.6% engaged in binge drinking while 64.4% of non-athletes engaged in binge drinking (X2 = 20.281, p = .625). The top 3 reasons for drinking alcohol were: 86.5% “to have fun,” 75.2% “to feel good and relaxed,” 46.8% “makes it easier to socialize.” The majority of students on this campus drink alcohol. Moreover, binge drinking is a significant problem among those who use alcohol, particularly males and those affiliated with Greek life. Information from the survey will be used to develop evidence-based interventions to support a change in the drinking culture on this campus.