For many college students, college is a time to be away from home for the first time, learn responsibility, make new friends, experience new things and more often than not, drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. While the majority of students refrain from developing addictions to these drugs, they are common at parties and get togethers. The frequency of use though has some researchers concerned. This is because a new study, published in Plos One, shows that students who use large amounts of marijuana and drink large amounts of alcohol are more likely to have lower grade point averages.
Combing over data gathered from the Brain and Alcohol Research in College Students study and combining that information with surveys filled out by college students, the researchers were able to assess the impact that alcohol and marijuana have on student’s grades and school performance. This is important, because these are the two drugs most commonly used on college campuses throughout the country.
The results showed that students who regularly used both substances were more likely to have lower GPAs after long time use, than students who did not use, used infrequently or only used one of the drugs. The researchers also noted that students who generally consumed more alcohol than average were likely to have lower GPAs to start with.
“Doing a lot of both drugs had a significant impact, in terms of lower grades in our study, and in other studies, with number of leaves of absences and those who dropped out of school,” explained Godfrey Pearlson, lead author of the study.
Of course, these findings may not come as a surprise to many people, but it does put some fact in place of warnings. Oftentimes teenagers and college students are given blanket warnings about drugs ruining their lives or killing them or overdosing, but studies like this one allow educators, parents and health officials to point to something concrete. The more studies that show exactly what drugs, or combining drugs, do to a person the more bolstered drug educators efforts will be.
Preventing alcohol and drug addictions among teenagers is perhaps one of the most important missions within drug prevention community. This is because research has shown that early abuse of drugs and alcohol increase the likelihood of addiction as adults. There are, however, some groups of teenagers that may be more at risk than others. Studies have shown that teenagers living in rural areas and American Indian teenagers may have increased chances of developing an addiction to alcohol. Because of this, some researchers have begun to determine what intervention strategies are most effective on these groups.
Interestingly, American Indian teenagers and rural teenagers drink as much or at the same rate as teenagers in the rest of the country. However, they seem to be more likely to develop alcohol dependencies than other types of teenagers. This may be because of the lack of education and public funding to discourage against drinking.
So, in order to investigate this further, researchers gathered data given to them by the Cherokee Nation. From this information, researchers developed two plans of attack that seemed to garner the best results in diminishing teenage alcohol consumption rates.
The first plan was centered around the community. Organizers from the Cherokee tribe and researchers created a program to be implemented in schools throughout the reservation. Social workers, trained by the researchers, spent time with each teenager, asking a series of questions related to alcohol and drug consumption. Any teenager exhibiting behavior indicative of alcohol abuse would then be referred for further counseling. This more individualized plan was the second line of attach that the researchers developed. One on one counseling allows the teenager to speak freely and without the judgement of their peers or even their teachers. According to the study results the new strategies are showing some promise. Surveys conducted by the researchers show that students who received either the community-based interview, or the individualized therapy were reporting less alcohol consumption than before.
“This study is one of the largest alcohol prevention trials ever conducted with an American Indian population, and the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of screening and brief counseling intervention in significantly reducing youth alcohol. use at a community level,” explained NIAAA Director, George F. Koob.