Academic journal article College Student Journal

Stress, Race and Substance Use in College

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Stress, Race and Substance Use in College

Article excerpt

This study investigates the role of stress in the substance use behavior of black and white college students. We examine the issue across race and look both at measures of traumatic stress and life stress. A perusal of the research literature reveals that the relationship between traumatic stressors and substance use behavior among both black and white college students has yet to be examined. Data used in this study are from a convenience sample of 1,587 college students from a Midwestern state. Substance use is measured using three measures: illicit drug use, heavy episodic drinking, and alcohol problems as measured by the RAPI. Principal method of analysis is multiple regression. Findings indicate that both life stress and traumatic stress are associated with increases in substance use. However, our analysis showed that the relationship between stressors and substance problems varies by race and gender. Life stress is associated with greater alcohol problems for all groups except for black males, while traumatic stress is associated with increases in alcohol problems for whites only. Traumatic experiences are associated with heavy episodic drinking for white women only.

**********

In this paper, the role of stress in the substance use behavior of black and white college students is investigated. Stress has been discussed as an important lector in the substance use behavior of college students, but there has been insufficient attention to race in these studies. Through a focus on racial differences in the role of stress in substance use among colleges students, we seek to extend the research in this area.

The role of stress in substance use among college students

There have been important studies of stress in substance use among the college population in the research literature. Generally the literature provides evidence that stress motivated drinking occurs (Carpenter & Hasin, 1999: Colder & Chassin, 1993: McCreary & Sadava, 2000; Perkins, 1999; Rutledge & Sher, 2001). Students experiencing higher levels of stress tend to use substances at greater levels and, correspondingly, to have a greater number of substance-related problems (Colder & Chassin, 1993; McCreary & Sadava, 2000; Perkins, 1999). Some research suggests that moderators such as gender (Cooper, Russell, Skinner, Frone, & Mudar, 1992: Rutledge & Sher, 2001), tension reduction expectancy (Cooper et al., 1992; Kassel, Jackson, & Unrod, 2000; Laurent, Catanzaro, & Callan, 1997; Rutledge & Sher, 2001), and age are critical in the relationship. Findings suggest that men with strong tension reduction motives are more likely to drink in response to stress (Cooper et al., 1992: Kushner, Sher, Wood, & Wood, 1994). Drinking to reduce stress has also been suggested to grow stronger in postcollegiate years (Perkins, 1999). Additional findings suggest that personality traits such as impulsivity, extroversion and neuroticism increase alcohol use (Sher, Trull, Bartholow, & Vieth, 1999). However, the basic pattern of association between stress and substance use is not altered by these factors: students experiencing higher levels of stress tend to use substances at greater levels.

Research that focuses specifically on traumatic stressors, such as childhood physical and sexual abuse, has reported a similarly complicated set of findings. Many studies report a link between childhood abuse and substance use (Bensley, Van Eenwyk, & Simmons, 2000; Kilpatrick, Aciemo, Resnick, Saunders, & Best, 1997; Widom, Ireland, & Glynn, 1995; Widom & White, 1997; Widom & Hiller-Strumhoefel, 2001). However, there are other studies that find no such relationship (Fleming, Mullen, Sibthorpe, & Bammer, 1999). Some research has also reported that childhood physical and sexual abuse is related to substance abuse for women only, and not men (Bensley, Van Eenwyk, & Simmons, 2000; Widom, Ireland, & Glynn, 1995; Langeland & Hartgers, 1998), but other research has found that sexual abuse is linked to problem substance use for both men and women (Galaif, Stein, Newcomb, & Bernstein, 2001). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.