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University students who use cannabis, tobacco and alcohol take too many non-prescribed drugs

23 September 2011 Plataforma SINC

A Spanish study carried out by the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) on the consumption of drugs amongst university students confirms that non-prescribed drug abuse amongst those who use cannabis, tobacco and alcohol could be considered "another form of multi-drug consumption."

University students who drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and take cannabis are more inclined to self-medicate, according to a study carried out by the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

"We selected a sample of 1,400 first year students who voluntarily completed a questionnaire. After two years the cohort was re-evaluated. Anonymity was ensured at all times," declares Francisco Caamaño, the lead author of the study published in the Journal of Public Health.

The questions were divided into two parts. The first part consisted of an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and an additional questionnaire which included socioeconomic variables and variables with regard to expectations of alcohol and drug use. Caamaño explains that "in order to measure drug use, we used questions taken from Spain's National Health Survey on prescribed and non-prescribed medication."

In terms of drug intake, researchers discovered a "very high consumption" of all medication groups, particularly those used to treat fever and pain, along with stimulants, vitamin and mineral tablets, anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives. Experts point out that "this consumption is high but still in line with Spain's National Health Survey for this age range."

Furthermore, there was a strong link between drug abuse and cannabis, tobacco and alcohol abuse, especially upon analysis of non-prescribed drugs. Caamaño insists that "students who take these three drugs have a tendency to take the most non-prescribed drugs. After two years of monitoring, this tendency remains in those who use cannabis."

Living away from home increases consumption

Another important fact is that students who live away from home whilst studying at university consume 35% more drugs than those who live with parents.

The study found that the prevalence of a dangerous consumption when students begin their studies stands at 37% for alcohol, 30% for tobacco and 20% for cannabis. After two years, the prevalence of a dangerous alcohol consumption increased to 53.4% whereas that of tobacco decreased slightly to 29% and that of cannabis to 17%.

The study concludes that "as for gender, women at the beginning of their studies are those who consume more drugs. Excluding contraceptives, they take around 70% more. This can be attributed to their use of drugs to ease menstrual pain."

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