Home > Motivations to decrease and cease substance use in third-level students: a scoping review.

Whelan, Eadaoin and Dockray, Samantha and Dick, Samantha and Davoren, Martin P and Heavin, Ciara and Linehan, Conor and Byrne, Michael (2020) Motivations to decrease and cease substance use in third-level students: a scoping review. PsyArXiv, Preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/5u7bs.

External website: https://psyarxiv.com/5u7bs/?fbclid=IwAR2coU7k5gXGs...

Background: Illicit substance use by third-level students is associated with depressive symptoms, health risk, relationship strain, and legal ramifications. Prevention and intervention programmes have often been grounded in information exchange, aimed at education of students about the associated risks. However, these interventions produce only small to moderate effect sizes in promoting reduction or cessation of substance use in third-level students. Understanding what motivates third-level students to change their substance use behaviour is essential in the planning of effective behaviour change programmes. The aim of this scoping review was to determine factors that relate to student motivations to reduce or stop their illicit use of substances, and to increase understanding of the factors that may be pertinent in behaviour change interventions for substance use in this population.

Method: We searched 8 databases in August 2018 using search terms based on ‘students’, ‘illicit substance use’, and ‘motivations’. We identified 86 research articles that reported on third-level students’ illicit substance use, and included reasons or motives for their usage.

Results: After full-text screening, only three studies were eligible for inclusion in the qualitative synthesis. The majority of studies were excluded as they described motives for abstention, but did not describe motivation for reducing or stopping current patterns of use of illicit substances.

Conclusion: Few efforts have been made to identify motivations of third-level students to decrease or cease substance use. Promising avenues for future research on motivations to change in relation to substance use include the social contextual factors, perceptions of effects on social relationships, and actions of friends and family members to prompt contemplations of change.

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