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College Student Motives for Substance Use

Researchers at Brown University and University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with Helene White, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Sociology at the Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies at Rutgers University, surveyed college students daily on substance use through a smartphone app. The survey included a question on what motivated them to use alcohol and/or marijuana since the previous survey.

Eight motives were listed for respondents to select those that applied to them: “to have fun,” “to be social,” “to cope,” “to fit in,” “it was offered,” “to expand awareness,” “get higher from another drug,” and “was too high from another drug.” The number and type of motives reported varied day to day, with more motives selected on a given day being associated with greater consumption of both alcohol and cannabis by that person on that day. Endorsing more motives in a day for alcohol use alone or for cannabis use alone was associated a greater likelihood of negative consequences for that person, even after adjusting for consumption.

Findings may inform future research and may improve prevention and/or intervention strategies related to number of motives as well as motive types.

Source: Stevens, A. K., Drohan, M. M., Boyle, H. K., White, H. R., & Jackson, K. M. (2021). More reasons, more use and problems? Examining the influence of number of motives on consumption and consequences across alcohol-only, cannabis-only, and simultaneous use days. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 81, 782-791.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.