French students found to overestimate their peers? consumption of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol: Prevention campaigns recommended

Much research on normative misconceptions among university students has been published in North America, but much less has surfaced in Europe. This cross-sectional study is based on 12 classes of second-year French college students in sociology, medicine, nursing or foreign language. Rather than focus on one substance the students were asked to estimate the proportion of tobacco, cannabis, alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking among their peers and to report their own use.

Researchers found that that substance use patterns and perceptions of the norms differ significantly across academic disciplines and that substance users are more likely to misjudge real peer use prevalence.

They conclude that social norms of substance use are an important factor among students personal use. Overestimating these norms is associated with increased levels of use. In addition to other strategies, the researchers recommend that prevention programs should consider changing use perception when it is overestimated.

"These results show that there are grounds for university level prevention campaigns based on local survey results."

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