Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Opioid Epidemic
Associations between binge drinking, marijuana use, and skipping class in a multi-site study of college students
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Faculty)
Arria, Amelia (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Bugbee, Brittany (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Soong, Andrea (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Barrall, Angelica (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Vincent, Kathryn (UMD SPH Behavioral and Community Health), Barrall, Angie

Background: Excessive drinking and marijuana use are prevalent among college students, and can negatively affect academic success. Research has previously highlighted skipping class as a mechanism linking substance use to poor academic performance.

Goal: The present analysis aimed to confirm prior findings in a multi-site college sample and examine if the strength of the associations differs by institution.

Objectives: 1. Describe the prevalence of skipping class, binge drinking, and marijuana use across the institutions of higher education studied. 2. Evaluate the association between skipping class, alcohol use, and marijuana use. 3. Assess whether or not the association between skipping class and substance use varies across institutions of higher education.

Approach: Data were collected online as part of a multi-year cross-sectional study of undergraduates attending twelve institutions of higher education (IHEs) in a single state. The present analyses were limited to full-time undergraduates ages 18-25 who participated in at least one of two annual surveys (n=5814; response rates 19.0% in 2016 and 17.5% in 2017). Either a census or a random sample was recruited via email. Binge drinking was defined as consuming 4+ drinks (females) or 5+ drinks (males) on one occasion. A single item assessed how often classes were skipped during the past year. Responses were collapsed into “sometimes/often” versus “rarely/never.” Logistic regression models evaluated the associations between past-month binge drinking, past-year marijuana use, and skipping class, adjusting for IHE, survey year, age, and race/ethnicity.

Results: Across all IHEs, 20.5% of students skipped class sometimes or often. The prevalence of binge drinking and marijuana use across IHEs ranged from 21.0%-60.9% and 20.1%-48.8%, respectively. Skipping class was more prevalent among binge drinkers than non-binge drinkers (28.5% vs. 14.8%, p<.001) and among marijuana users than non-users (30.4% vs. 15.0%, p<.001). After adjusting for covariates, the odds of skipping class were nearly two times greater for binge drinkers than non-binge drinkers and marijuana users than non-users. Two interaction terms, school by binge drinking and school by marijuana use, were not statistically significant.

Importance to public health: Results are consistent with previous studies showing that excessive drinking and marijuana use are associated with skipping class. The effect of excessive drinking and marijuana use on skipping is similar regardless of the level of substance use at a school. Because academic achievement and retention are central to the mission of IHEs, these findings provide a compelling argument to bolster substance use prevention activities on college campuses and identify students at risk for substance use problems by levels of academic engagement.