Lessons Learned: A Prevalence of Alcohol and Other Substance Use in Undergraduate College Students

York, Zachary, Andrea Kwasky, and Mary Serowoky

Project Title: Lessons Learned: A Prevalence Study of Alcohol and Substance Use in Undergraduate College Students  

Authors: Zachary York, BSN, FNP-S; Advisors: Mary Serowoky DNP, APRN-BC, FNP & Andrea Kwasky DNP, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of alcohol, drug, and non-medical use of prescription drugs and to ascertain risk and protective factors.

Methods: The Core Institute (Southern Illinois University) was contracted to administer a voluntary, anonymous, web-based survey to all undergraduate students ages 18-23 (target number of 1970). The CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey is a standardized 47 item instrument.  The researchers collaborated across the university using a community action coalition approach to ensure optimum student participation levels.

Results: Data obtained on student behaviors, perceptions, consequences of substance use, risk factors and coping strategies.  Despite a 15% response rate, the researchers uncovered three key relationships. There was a significant association between binge drinking and grades; the B students engage in more binge drinking. When analyzing average drinks per week however, we found no significant relationships to grades.  Living on campus and being involved in Greek life confer a higher level of risk for being taken advantage of sexually.

Discussion: This study is an important first step to build a sustainable plan for alcohol and substance use prevention programming on campus.  Since faculty advisors are often first line responders to uncover behaviors that impact academic success, the researchers developed a workshop to provide faculty with tools to assess and communicate with students during advising periods. Using the model of Social Ecology and Cura Personalis (caring for the entire person), faculty engagement is an important first step. Improvements are anticipated to enhance student relationships and decrease incidents of drug and alcohol related sexual assault or misconduct. 

Conclusion: Campus administrators now have a better awareness related to the extent of drug and alcohol use among the student body.  They have committed to improving the current treatment and referral activities.  Interdepartmental collaboration among the various colleges within the University, Student Life, Resident Life, Campus Ministry, Student Affairs and the Wellness Center will assist with coordinating prevention and intervention programming efforts.