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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Jan 1;127(1-3):23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.06.001. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Drug use patterns in young adulthood and post-college employment.

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  • 1University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Center on Young Adult Health and Development, Department of Family Science, College Park, MD 20742, United States. aarria@umd.edu



The relationship between serious drug involvement and risk for unemployment is well recognized, but few studies have prospectively examined this relationship among college students. This study used longitudinal data to examine the association between drug use patterns during college and the likelihood of employment post-college, holding constant sociodemographic variables and personality characteristics. Second, we estimate the prevalence of alcohol and other drug use disorders among employed individuals.


Data were derived from the College Life Study. Participants entered college as traditional students and were assessed annually for six years, regardless of continued college attendance. Analyses were restricted to 620 individuals no longer enrolled in school by Year 6.


Using multinomial regression modeling, persistent drug users (i.e., used illicit drugs (other than marijuana) and/or nonmedical prescription drugs every year they were assessed during the first four years of study) were significantly more likely than non-users to be unemployed vs. employed full-time post-college. Persistent drug users and infrequent marijuana users were also more likely than non-users to be unemployed vs. employed part-time. In Year 6, 13.2% of individuals employed full-time and 23.7% of individuals employed part-time met DSM-IV criteria for drug abuse or dependence during the past year.


If confirmed, the results of this study suggest that persistent drug use among academically achieving young adults might increase risk for post-college unemployment. More research is needed to understand the processes underlying this association. Further attention should be directed at managing substance use problems among recent college graduates who have secured employment.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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