Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Outcomes for Emerging Adults in Non-College Settings: A Meta-Analysis

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Emerging adults have the highest prevalence rate of alcohol and drug use and represent a large proportion of treatment admissions in the United States. Those who do not attend college experience higher rates of use and may not have similar advantages as those attending college. A systematic review included studies investigating prevention and treatment outcomes among emerging adults in non-college settings. We included studies reporting an average age between 18 and 25 conducted outside of college settings. We extracted data for experimental effects (experimental group compared to control), and contrasted treatments with active and no intervention controls. We also examined several moderators. Fifty studies were meta-analyzed, including 32 prevention and 18 treatment studies. Overall, our experimental weighted mean effect size was d = .17 for both prevention and treatment studies. Comparisons across treatment types typically yielded nonsignificant results. Across prevention and treatment studies, smaller effects existed for studies delivering personalized feedback interventions. For treatment studies only, the percent of students included in the sample was a significant moderator. Overall effects were similar to current meta-analyses on college drinking. However, personalized feedback may be a less effective prevention strategy in non-college settings, and the field should prioritize increasing the effectiveness of treatments targeting non-college students.

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