College Attendance Type and Subsequent Alcohol and Marijuana Use in the U.S.

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence (September 2019). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107580

Posted on RAND.org on September 24, 2019

by Bohyun Joy Jang, Megan S. Schuler, Rebecca J. Evans-Polce, Megan E. Patrick

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Background

College attendance is a risk factor for frequent and heavy drinking and marijuana initiation but less is known about the extent to which risk varies by type of college attendance and across age.

Methods

Using panel data of young adults who were high school seniors in 1990-1998 from the Monitoring the Future study (n = 13,123), we examined the associations between college attendance at age 19/20 (4-year college full-time, other college, and non-attendance) and subsequent alcohol and marijuana use at age 21/22, 25/26, 29/30 and 35. Inverse propensity score weighting was used to balance the three college groups on pre-existing differences when examining associations with substance use outcomes.

Results

Compared to non-attendance, attending a 4-year college full-time was associated with significantly greater odds of binge drinking at age 21/22 (aOR = 1.20) and 25/26 (aOR = 1.12) and lower odds of alcohol abstinence at age 35 (aOR = 0.51). Similarly, other college attendance was associated with greater odds of binge drinking at age 21/22 (aOR = 1.08) and 25/26 (aOR = 1.04) and lower odds of abstinence at age 35 (aOR = 0.70). Four-year college full-time attendance was associated with greater odds of marijuana use at age 21/22 (aOR = 1.07) and 25/26 (aOR = 1.02) but lower odds at age 29/30 (aOR = 0.99). Other college attendance was associated with lower odds of marijuana use at age 25/26 (aOR = 0.98) and 29/30 (aOR = 0.97). Marijuana use at age 35 did not differ by college attendance.

Conclusions

College attendance may confer elevated risk of substance use post-college. The magnitude and duration of risk vary by type of college attendance and substance.

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