Contributors to illicit substance use in university students.

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Addiction Editor

Dr Anna Kokavec presented at the 2015 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference and today shares an updated view on the topic of ‘Contribution of personality, motives, coping and licit drugs to illicit substance use in university students’.

The aim was to investigate whether a relationship exists between gender, smoking behaviour, and illicit substance use. A total of 343 students from La Trobe University participated in the present study. The procedure required students to complete a number of self-administered questionnaires aimed at collecting demographic, personality, mood, motive, coping, and information related to licit and illicit substance use.

Included in the demographic questionnaire were at least two dichotomous variables that asked students to report whether they were a smoker (0=No, 1=Yes) or consumer of alcohol (0=No, 1=Yes). In addition, the AUDIT was used to provide information on 3 alcohol factors (i.e. hazardous drinking, alcohol dependence, harmful consumption) and an overall harmful alcohol consumption score.  However, in previous studies we noticed that those who only smoke cigarettes socially often do not report they are a “smoker”. Therefore it was decided to also include a variable called “Smoking when Drinking”, which consisted of three levels (0=do not smoke, 1=smoke the same, 2=smoke more).

The inclusion of the “Smoking when Drinking” construct allowed us to explore the connection between licit and illicit substance use in more depth. While it is well accepted that a significant relationship exists between alcohol consumption and tobacco we did not find there was a link between alcohol mis-use (alone) and illicit drug use in our sample of university students. However, interestingly a one-way relationship between the “Smoking when Drinking” construct and both cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulant use was noted. Thus, it is only when university students engage in risky drinking behaviour <em>and</em> smoke tobacco that a significant relationship between licit and illicit drugs emerges.

The model presented in Figure 1 aims to graphically illustrate the relationship between gender and licit and illicit substance use. It can be seen that irrespective of gender: smokers tend to consume more alcohol than non-smokers; those who mis-use alcohol may also be at increased risk of being a smoker; and drinking alcohol is associated with increased tobacco consumption, which in turn is associated with even more alcohol being consumed.

Figure 1 also shows that gender is a significant factor that can increase the risk of alcohol mis-use, daily smoking, and consumption of both cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants. Furthermore, for cannabis (only) a combination of being male and smoking cigarettes may increase the risk of using cannabis even more. In contrast, while being male and smoking cigarettes daily can each on its own increase the risk of consuming amphetamine-type stimulants, an interaction between gender and tobacco smoking is not apparent.

For queries please contact:

Dr Anna Kokavec
Senior Lecturer
School of Health
University of New England
Armidale, NSW, 2350

Email: akokavec@une.edu.au
Phone: 61+2 67733960

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