Consequences of Alcohol and Marijuana Use Among College Students: Prevalence Rates and Attributions to Substance-Specific Versus Simultaneous Use

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College students who use alcohol and marijuana often use them simultaneously, so that their effects overlap. The present study examined whether negative consequences experienced by simultaneous alcohol and marijuana (SAM) users vary from those experienced by individuals who use alcohol and marijuana concurrently but not simultaneously (CAM) or single-substance users. We considered 9 types of consequences: cognitive, blackout, vomiting, academic/occupational, social, self-care, physical dependence, risky behaviors, and driving under the influence (DUI). Further, we examined whether consequences experienced by SAM users are attributed to using alcohol, marijuana, or both simultaneously. The sample included past-year alcohol and marijuana users age 18–24 (N = 1,390; 62% female; 69% White; 12% Hispanic) recruited from 3 U.S. college campuses. SAM users experienced a greater overall number of consequences than CAM or alcohol-only users, even controlling for frequency and intensity of alcohol and marijuana use and potentially confounding psychosocial and sociodemographic factors. Experiencing specific consequences differed between simultaneous and concurrent users, but after adjusting for consumption and other covariates, only blackouts differed. In contrast, SAM users were more likely to experience each consequence than alcohol-only users, with strongest effects for DUI, blackouts, and cognitive consequences. Among SAM users, consequences were most likely to be attributed to alcohol and were rarely attributed to simultaneous use. Being a user of both alcohol and marijuana and using alcohol and marijuana together so that their effects overlap each contribute to risk, suggesting there is value in targeting the mechanisms underlying type of user as well as those underlying type of use.

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