Alcohol Use Behaviors among Pharmacy Students

Article excerpt


Alcohol abuse is a complex public health issue that is associated with a variety of destructive social conditions, such as failure in school and lost productivity. (1) Given the prevalence of alcohol abuse and its damaging consequences, the United States Department of Health and Human Services outlined several objectives in its Healthy People 2020 initiative focusing on alcohol consumption, including reducing binge drinking during the past 2 weeks in college students, reducing binge drinking during the past 30 days in adults aged 18 years and older, and reducing average annual alcohol consumption. (1) Binge drinking among college students has received increased attention because college students, when compared to their non-college peers of the same age, exhibited higher rates of alcohol use (60.8% vs 52.0%), binge alcohol use (39.1% vs 35.4%), and heavy alcohol use (13.6% vs 10.5%). (2) The 21- to 25-year-old group exhibited the highest proportion of past year alcohol use (83.9%), past month use (69.7%), binge drinking (45.4%), and heavy alcohol use (13.7%). Considering that most pharmacy students are within this age group, it is important to determine whether pharmacy students exhibit similar patterns of abuse. (3)

Because substance abuse and addiction are major concerns for pharmacy students and pharmacists, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Special Committee on Substance Abuse and Pharmacy Education recommends that colleges and schools of pharmacy address these disorders in their curricula. (4) This AACP committee also recommended an increase in continuing education programs to address the needs of future and current practitioners in addiction and substance abuse. These recommendations are intended to improve the education of students, faculty and staff members, and practitioners to provide them with the necessary tools to identify and assist others who may need help with addiction and substance abuse. Therefore, colleges and schools of pharmacy must develop or modify alcohol abuse education programs to address both short-term and long-term alcohol use issues.

Nearly 1 in 4 pharmacy students has exhibited hazardous alcohol use. (3,5) These students also exhibited behaviors that negatively affected grades and school work, and some even reported participating in patient care under the influence of alcohol. Because substance use by pharmacy students is a strong predictor of future abuse, understanding the prevalence of alcohol use and reasons for using alcohol during a pharmacy program may help prevent students from long-term alcohol abuse. (6) Long-term alcohol abuse among pharmacists is concerning as pharmacists misuse alcohol at rates that exceed the general population. (7) Pharmacists who have experienced addiction have indicated that more intensive early education and prevention programs are needed. (8) Educational programs that address drinking motives should be established in colleges and schools of pharmacy to prevent long-term abuse.

Few publications have reported the motives for drinking among pharmacy students. (5,9) Because drinking motives have not been primary study objectives or assessed with validated measures, additional research examining drinking motives is still needed. Studies in other student populations have yielded promising data to inform prevention and intervention efforts. Drinking motives represent a subjectively derived decisional framework for alcohol consumption that is based on an individual's personal experience, current environment or situation, and alcohol expectancies. (10,11) Social enhancement motives are the most commonly indicated reasons for consuming alcohol among college students. (12,13) Although drinking to enhance social experiences may be common, drinking to cope with negative affect or enhance positive affect is more likely to be associated with increased alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. …


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