Addiction

08 February 2012

More alcohol abuse, less drug abuse

US college students seeking treatment for substance abuse are more likely to be having trouble with alcohol, but less likely to be abusing drugs.

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US college students seeking treatment for substance abuse are more likely to be having trouble with alcohol, but less likely to be abusing drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine than their non-student peers, according to a new government study.

Researchers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) analysed data from 2009, when about 374,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24 were hospitalised for substance abuse or dependence in the United States.

The overwhelming majority of those admitted for treatment – about 362,000 – were young adults who were not enrolled in college or post-secondary school, the researchers found.

About 12,000 of the admissions – or 3.2% of the total – involved young adults enrolled in higher education.

When researchers looked at patterns of abuse within the two groups, they found significant differences.

The young adults enrolled in higher education who sought treatment were much more likely to be abusing alcohol than their non-college peers, researchers said.

Nearly half of the college kids - 46.6% - admitted for treatment in 2009 were having problems with alcohol, compared with 30.6% of the non-students.

Alcohol affects campus life

Pamela Hyde, an official with SAMHSA, said the results underscored the "pervasive and potentially devastating role that alcohol plays on far too many college campuses."

When it came to most drugs, however, college students had markedly lower rates of treatment admissions than non-students their age.

Only 7.2% of the college students seeking treatment in 2009 were abusing heroin, compared with 16.1% of the non-students.

Cocaine admission rates were more than twice as high for non-students than for students and methamphetamine admissions were more than four times higher for non-students, the researchers said.

Marijuana remains a significant problem with both groups, the researchers found, accounting for 30.9% of the treatment admissions involving college students and 30% of the admissions involving non-students.

The study was based on an analysis of SAMHSA's 2009 Treatment Episode Data Set, which drew on reports from thousands of publicly supported substance abuse treatment facilities in the country.

(James B. Kelleher, Reuters Health, February 2012)

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