College Substance Use in the Time of COVID

The effect of COVID-19 on college student mental health is widely reported and can, in part, be evidenced by the increasing demand for counseling services.  The degree to which the pandemic affected substance use patterns, including binge drinking and cannabis use, appears to be less obvious and, perhaps, more complicated.  We asked two national experts what the early data show on substance use patterns over the last two years and how we might interpret what we are seeing.  Their answers include the identification of looming concerns and emerging best practices.

Dr. Jason Kilmer, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, is a nationally recognized expert on cannabis use among college students. Dr. Kilmer has served as an investigator on several studies evaluating prevention and intervention efforts for alcohol, cannabis, and other drug use by college students. 

Dr. Amelia Arria is the Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.  Her research focuses on substance use and untreated mental health problems among adolescents and young adults, with a special focus on the connection between behavioral health and human capital. She is the director of the Maryland Collaborative (, a network of Maryland colleges and universities working together with community partners to reduce excessive alcohol use in their campus communities.  Using data-driven approaches, the Collaborative engages partners to create environments, policies, and practices that help our students make healthy decisions, succeed in college, and become productive members of their respective communities. Read more.