Another presentation at the 2015 annual APHA meeting in Chicago in early November:

Background: Marijuana use has increased among college students over the past decade. Of particular concern are students’ perceived social norms that encourage its use.  The study examines trends in individual characteristics, perceived peer behavior, perceived risk, campus environment, and campus policies related to marijuana consumption among undergraduate college students.

Method: The findings utilize the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey-Long Form data based on a national US sample of 344,755 college students collected from 2006 to 2011.  It is designed to assess longitudinal trends of college students’ attitudes, perceptions and consequences of alcohol and other drug use on their campuses.  Linear and logistic regression analyses were conducted to investigate the relationship of student, peer and campus environment characteristics on marijuana consumption.

Results: Results revealed that student perceptions of normative marijuana use are significantly related to individual use. Specifically, students who report more frequent marijuana use also report that: 1) peers have higher rates of marijuana use (p < .05) and 2) the social environment on campus promotes drug use (p < .001).  Also, students reported that occasional or regular marijuana use presented low risk to the user.  This trend became stronger over the years particularly with students reporting more frequent marijuana use.

Conclusion: The results indicate that marijuana is perceived as a low risk drug and central to the college experience.  This perception should be targeted for intervention as part of overall efforts to reduce high risk alcohol and other drug consumption.

Sara Wakai, PhD Center for Public Health and Health Policy, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT; Elizabeth A. Schilling, PhD Institute for Public Health Research, Center for Public Health and Health Policy, University of Connecticut Health Center, East Hartford, CT
Click HERE to go to the APHA site for this presentation.