Study examines substance abuse disorders in young adults


Hannah Olson/ Iowa State Daily

According to a study conducted by Brooke Arterberry, assistant professor of psychology, a large portion of young adults with substance use disorders did not receive treatment for their disorder at any point in their lifetime.

Morrgan Zmolek

A recent news release from earlier this month brought light to the issue of substance abuse and the lack of treatment in young adults.

The Oct. 16 news release written by Angela Hunt, interim director of media relations, highlighted the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUD) in young adults and the statistics behind frequencies of these disorders.

The study this news release is based around was one conducted by Brooke Arterberry, assistant professor of psychology, and colleagues Sean Esteban McCabe, co-director of the University of Michigan Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health; Carol Boyd and Brady West of University of Michigan; and Ty Schepis of Texas State University. Schepis looked at not only the frequency of SUDs in young adults as a whole, but also the possible differences in those same disorders between college-enrolled young adults and their peers who were not in college, out of a sample of slightly above 3,000.

“This is the first study to examine the prevalence, remission and treatment associated with ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5’ (DSM-5) SUDs among young adults,” Arterberry said.

The group of researchers collected their data through analysis of a survey conducted from 2012 to 2013 called the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol Related Conditions III (NESARC III.) According to the final official report of the NESARC III, this survey was the fourth in a series of national surveys conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to gather data pertaining to alcohol use and disorders and related physical and mental disabilities.

The results of this study showed a large portion of young adults with an SUD at any point in their lifetime did not receive treatment for their disorder and were not likely to establish successful remission of their disorder. In fact, only approximately one in 100 students are able to achieve this result and stop using substances after the development of a disorder.

While the presence of at least one reported DSM-5 SUD was two in every five participants in the last year, an additional one out of six of those young adults reported suffering from multiple DSM-5 SUDs in that same time frame, according to Arterberry’s study.

“This study is important because substance use disorders are most prevalent during young adulthood,” Arterberry said. “Few studies have examined differences in DSM-5 substance use disorders between college and non-college peers. Additionally, we examined the prevalence of remission and treatment associated with DSM-5 substance-specific — alcohol use disorder — SUDs and multiple DSM-5 SUDs — alcohol and cannabis use disorders. We wanted to start addressing the effects of multiple SUDs, as multiple SUDs have a more persistent course and treatment can be more challenging.”

Included in Hunt’s news release was a criteria list for identification of SUDs. This list consisted of requirements such as drinking more or longer than intended, trying unsuccessfully to cut down, spending a lot of time drinking, craving to use the substance, failing to fulfill obligations such as school or work, problems with family and friends, giving up activities, drinking in risky situations, alcohol-related health problems, tolerance and withdrawal.

Iowa State has a plethora of resources for students suffering from SUDs to get connected to a group or program to help aid them in their recovery. Such resources include Community and Family Resources, Youth Standing Strong, Association of Recovery in Higher Education, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Hotline and locators to help find facilities for those seeking help.

In her closing statements regarding the study, Arterberry said, “Colleges and universities should consider assessing the prevalence of substance use and substance use disorders on their own campuses to address barriers to treatment and plan appropriate prevention and intervention efforts.”