College students with physical or cognitive disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to use illicit drugs, and have a higher prevalence of substance use disorder, according to a new study.
Researchers from Rutgers University analyzed data from 6,189 college students in the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Students with a disability were nearly twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to misuse prescription pain relievers in the past month. They were three times more likely to meet the criteria for past-year dependence or intentional misuse of any illicit substance.
The study found 40% of students with any disability reported having used illicit substances, compared with 30% of their non-disabled peers, the researchers reported in Disability and Health Journal.
“Our findings suggest that health care providers be aware of the risk of drug misuse when treating college students with disabilities, particularly when prescribing medications that may lead to abuse or dependence,” researcher Judith Graber said in a news release. “Also, drug prevention and treatment programs should include interventions for college students with disabilities, especially cognitive.”