Online Program

Utilizing a social norms approach to assess and educate students regarding substance use on campus

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wendy Parker, PhD, School of Arts and Sciences, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany, NY
Peter Cornish, PhD, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany, NY
Randee McArdle, LCSW, Counseling Services, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany, NY
Substance use and abuse is a concern across college campuses. Social norms campaigns survey students and then use the data to inform the student body of the misperceptions seen on campus, with the intent of educating students and dispelling the myth that “everyone is doing it.” Enrolled students on a private campus, age 18 and older, were invited to anonymously participate in a survey, and completed the survey each spring for the past three years via the internet. The three year total of data collected is 1,467. The sample remains consistent on a variety of demographic measures. Most students report never using any substance, while the perception of other students who never used these substances is low. In 2010 72% of students said they never used tobacco, but they perceived that only 11.2% of other students have never used. When posters were displayed throughout campus addressing actual self reported use of tobacco, there did appear to be a shift in perception of peers who have never used tobacco, from 11.2% to 16.6%. While this still leaves a gap between actual use and perceived use, a trend which continues in the same pattern for all other substances other than alcohol, there is the potential that continued informational campaigns may decrease this perception gap. Overall the survey demonstrates a campus with growing awareness of substance abuse information and knowledge. The social norms campaign is working at changing the perception of some substance use on campus, in small but statistically significant ways over the three year study.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Define the social norms model as it applies to college student substance abuse behavior Discuss the method and model of one college's approach to substance abuse on campus

Keyword(s): Communication, Substance Abuse Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a medical sociologist who has been working with this data for over a year now to analyze and disseminate its' results. I have worked in substance abuse prevention, treatment and evaluation in my previous research positions.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3416.0: Substance Abuse