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New Research on Drugs and U.S. College Students

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Editor’s note: In today’s post, we highlight a few recent dissertations on drug use among college students and its regulation by authorities. These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen, which was formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but is now periodically featured on the Points blog. Contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

E-Cigarette Adoption and Use Intention Among College Students: Determinants and Warning Label Effects

Author: Lee, Hsiao-Yun

Abstract: The electronic nicotine delivery system (also known as the e-cigarette) is a recently-invented battery-operated device that mimics smoking by delivering nicotine without burning tobacco. Without governmental regulation, the e-cigarette has been heavily promoted in the United States (US) and have aroused a vigorous debate over its health effects. Supporters believe that the e-cigarette is a safer alternative for smokers because it does not contain toxicants such as tar and carbon monoxide, while opponents are concerned that e-cigarettes will re-normalize smoking behavior and may serve as a gateway to traditional cigarettes. According to a national report, the percentage of use of non-traditional tobacco products is increasing among college students, implying that more college students are at risk of being addicted to nicotine. Previous studies also show that this age group has the highest rate of ever-use e-cigarettes, indicating an urgent need to investigate college students’ e-cigarette use. Because e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), manufacturers are not obligated to include warning labels on their packages. Nevertheless, some e-cigarette companies have created their own warning labels without examining their effects. This study consists of two sub-studies. Sub-study 1 investigated college students’ e-cigarette use by examining differences in characteristics at different e-cigarette adoption levels based on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. Sub-study 2 aimed to investigate the effect of e-cigarette warning labels on college students’ intention to use e-cigarettes by examining two warning labels, one generated by the FDA and one by e-cigarette companies. A total of 1,198 undergraduate college students at a Midwestern university, aged eighteen to twenty-five, were surveyed in September and October 2015. Multinomial logistic regression and Heckman two-step selection procedures were conducted to examine the influence of determinants on levels of e-cigarette adoption and transition. Structural equation modeling analyses were implemented to examine the effect of warning labels on college students’ intention to use e-cigarettes. The findings of this study show that e-cigarette users are more likely to be current substance users and that flavor is a strong factor inducing college students to use e-cigarettes. Rather than seeking to reduce stress, college students use e-cigarettes for positive sensory experiences and care more about their appearance than their health. Regarding warning label effects, the warning label proposed by the FDA was found to reduce college students’ intention to use e-cigarettes via increasing their perceived risk of e-cigarette use. The FDA warning is more effective than the warning label created by e-cigarette companies. The resultant findings not only could be used as references for future e-cigarette regulations and interventions, but also could serve as direct evidence for establishing future mandates, including the regulations of label content and design.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781339660318

Advisors: Lin, Hsien-Chang; Seo, Dong-Chul

Committee member: Cole, Shu Tian; Lohrmann, David

University/institution: Indiana University

Department: Public Health

Prescription Stimulant Misuse: The Relationship between Executive Functioning and Academic Outcomes

Author: Munro, Bailey

Abstract: Prescription stimulant misuse is a growing problem among college students. Students found to be at greatest risk for misusing prescription stimulants are those who are male, Caucasian, members of a fraternity or sorority, and who have a lower grade point average (GPA). The primary reason reported for stimulant misuse among college students is academic enhancement. Preliminary findings investigating executive functioning (EF) in college students has revealed that individuals with deficits in EF are more likely to have educational difficulties and take part in risky behavior, and that executive functions are substantially improved in students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and EF deficits when taking prescription stimulants. It is possible that students who have greater difficulty with planning, organization, self-motivation, and interference control (i.e., EF deficits) are misusing prescription stimulants to help them overcome these deficits to succeed academically. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between prescription stimulant misuse, EF, and academic outcomes among a sample of college students. Results revealed 18.8% of the sample reported misusing prescription stimulants. In addition, participants with clinically significant EF deficits reported significantly higher rates of misuse, compared to those without deficits in EF. Prescription stimulant misuse, however, did not moderate the relationship between EF and GPA. The present findings have implications for identifying sub-populations of college students who may be at risk for misusing prescription stimulants and to improve prevention and intervention strategies aimed at reducing misuse. Limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781339694221

Advisor: Weyandt, Lisa L.

Committee members: Katenka, Natallia; Mosley Austin, Alycia; Tammaro, Michael; Willis, Grant

University/institution: University of Rhode Island

Department: Interdisciplinary Neuroscience

Substance Use, Stress, and Spirituality in College Students

Author: Ord, Anna Shirokova

Abstract: Substance use remains a pressing concern in the United States. Among various demographic groups, young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 report the highest rates of substance use. Within this age group, college students report the highest rate of heavy alcohol use, as compared to their non-college peers. Various factors have been linked to substance use among college students. Stress is one of the major risk factors for substance use in this population, while religious involvement has been identified among major protective factors for substance use. While numerous studies explore substance use rates, prevalence, and trends in adolescents and college students, very few of those studies examine substance use behaviors and attitudes among students in Christian colleges as compared to students in secular colleges. The present study is aimed at addressing this gap in the literature and at expanding the body of research in this area. Participants of the study included 897 students from various colleges and universities in the United States. Approximately half of the students were enrolled into Christian-affiliated schools, whereas the rest of the students were enrolled into secular schools. Results of the study indicated that students enrolled into Christian schools reported significantly lower frequency and amount of alcohol use, as well as significantly lower prevalence of illicit drug use, as compared to students from secular schools. Results also revealed that students who attend religious services and engage in prayer regularly reported lower rates of substance use.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781339708447

Advisor: Baum, Linda J.

Committee members: Dwiwardani, Carissa

University/institution: Regent University

Department: Psychology and Counseling

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