Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Marcie Wright


Background: In recent years, there has been an increase in prescription drug abuse, particularly among adolescents and young adults. While substance abuse on college campuses has remained a pervasive public health concern, rates of nonmedical prescription drug use surpass commonly abused drugs. The three most commonly abused prescription drugs (central nervous system (CNS) depressants, opioids, and stimulants) were assessed to identify differences among student characteristics, as well as their relationship with abuse. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to conduct a secondary analysis to explore demographic variables (race, gender, academic performance, living arrangement, alcohol and other drug usage, and affiliation with a fraternity/sorority) and their relationship with nonmedical prescription drug use. Also, this study aims to identify potential strategies and provide suggestions to address nonmedical prescription drug abuse for future interventions. Methods: Data was obtained from the 2009 National College Health Assessment. The study consisted of n = 1,417 undergraduate students attending Virginia Commonwealth University. Initially, overall prevalence rates for past-year illicit use of prescription CNS depressant, opioids, and stimulant use were examined. Bivariate analyses were conducted to identify differences among users and nonusers for each class of prescription drug using Pearson’s Chi-Square test of significance. Multiple logistic regressions were used to examine associations between these demographics and illicit use of each prescription drug. Interactions between individual demographics and drug use were also examined. Results: The past year prevalence use of nonmedical prescription central nervous system depressants, opioids, and stimulants use were 4, 11.2, and 8.7% respectively. According to bivariate analyses, nonmedical use was higher among certain college students, however characteristics varied by type of prescription drug. Multiple logistic regression analyses indicated that students living off campus (OR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.03, 4.35) and reported use of alcohol (OR = 3.91, 95% CI = 1.21, 12.64) and marijuana (OR = 4.41, 95% CI = 2.28, 8.54) were more likely to use prescription depressants. Students with a GPA of a C or lower (OR = 1.50, 95% CI = 1.03, 2.17), and reported use of marijuana (OR = 3.25, 95% CI = 2.22, 4.78) were more likely to use prescription opioids. Nonmedical prescription stimulant use was highest among White students (OR = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.28, 3.30) with a GPA of a B or lower (OR = 2.06, 95% CI = 1.28, 3.30) and reported lifetime use of alcohol (OR = 7.96, 95% CI = (2.50, 25.41). Conclusions: The results of this study provide insight into the demographic variables and their relationship with nonmedical prescription drug abuse. The findings have important implications for identifying potential strategies to address nonmedical prescription drug abuse and will assist in the development of targeted and tailored interventions.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010

Included in

Epidemiology Commons