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The Relationship between Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms and Substance Misuse (in Terms of Marijuana, Illicit Drugs, Tobacco, and Alcohol) in College Students
Devin Singh, Depts. of Psychology and Chemistry, with Dr. Sally Kuo and Dr. Amy Adkins, Dept. of Psychology
The prevalence of substance use (in terms of marijuana, illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol) in college students is of consistent concern as are rising rates of mental health concerns (i.e., anxiety and depression). College is a critical developmental period for establishing health in young adults. Previous studies have shown that students experienced anxiety and depressive symptoms when they used alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, amphetamines, cocaine, sedatives, and hallucinogens (Walters et al., 2018, & Stowell et al., 2019). The purpose of this study was to look at mental health and substance use in a college sample to determine the relationships between different patterns of use and internalizing symptoms. Data was taken from Spit4Science (Dick et al., 2014) and the analytic sample consisted of the freshman class of Fall 2014 and their follow-up survey in Spring of 2015 at a diverse, urban, public university. The survey covered anxiety and depressive symptoms and substance use. Separate sum scores for anxiety and depressive symptoms were put together by adding up the responses to four questions for anxiety symptoms and four questions for depressive symptoms, taken from the SCL-90 (Derogatis & Cleary, 1977), to get a total score for each. A metavariable substance use group was created based upon lifetime use: Non-Users; Alcohol Only; Alcohol and Nicotine; Alcohol and Marijuana; and Poly-Substance Use of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Illicit Drugs and/or Nicotine. Separate ANOVA tests were run for anxiety and depressive symptoms, and follow up comparisons done with a post-hoc Tukey Test. There was a significant difference in anxiety symptoms [F(4, 1320) = 3.983, p = 0.015] and depressive symptoms [F(4, 1321) = 7.698, p = 0.020] between the Polysubstance group and Alcohol Only group. The Polysubstance group had higher rates of symptoms. These results highlight potential detrimental emotional and behavioral health effects for polysubstance users.
Sally Kuo, Ph.D.
Amy Adkins, Ph.D.
Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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