Study Finds Many Young Adults Have Substance Use Disorders

Oct 20, 2019

An Iowa State state study has found that two out of five young adults have a substance use disorder.

The study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health, surveyed more than 3,200 young adults both in college and not in college and found nearly 40 percent of college students and more than 44 percent of their non-college peers had at least one substance use disorder within the past year. 

Additionally, more than 14 percent of college students and nearly 19 percent of non-college students were found to have multiple substance abuse disorders.

Iowa State Psychology Professor Brooke Arterberry said researchers surveyed young adults about their use of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens and prescription drugs.

Arterberry said they looked for symptoms as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. She said they include using the substance more or longer than intended, unsuccessfully trying to cut down, craving the substance and problems with friends and family.

Researchers also discovered just one in every 100 college students with the disorder were able to quit.

Arterberry said that's because they found many young people are not seeking treatment.

"If you think about the idea that students are not seeking treatment or that help or support, then it's going to be harder for them to remit," she said.

She said this includes college students, who often have access to addiction services on campus.

"Colleges and universities should really consider different ways or different prevention and intervention programs that are directed to encouraging students to seek treatment," she said.

The study found women who identify as lesbian and those with personality disorders were significantly more likely to have a substance abuse disorder.