Cross–Cultural Drug Use: A Sweden–U.S. Direct Comparison

Henrietta Stahlbrandt

Henrietta Stahlbrandt1, C. Andersson2, E. Pedersen1, S. Tollison1, M. Berglund2, M. Larimer1. 1University of Washington, United States; 2Lund University, Sweden

Background: College student drinking is problematic in Western societies. U.S. marijuana prevalence is considerably higher than in Sweden, where it is rising. Most alcohol and marijuana research has been performed in the United States. This study compares rates, predictors, and moderators of alcohol and marijuana use in the United States and Sweden, to address generalizability of U.S. research.

Method: This study compared U.S. (n=3,753) and Swedish (n=2,280) college students, using common alcohol and marijuana questionnaires.

Results: Swedish students reported heavier drinking (p<0.001), but U.S. students had more alcohol consequences. Age, rather than nationality, explained this relationship between use and consequences. Americans with lower impairment expectancies experienced the most consequences, while Swedes had the opposite relationship. There was no difference in rates of at-risk drinking on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (males: 43.4% U.S., 43.8% Swedish; females: 63.4% U.S., 63.8% Swedish). More U.S. students reported a family history of alcohol problems. In the past 30 days, U.S. males averaged 2.24 days of marijuana use; Swedish males used on 0.20 days, p<0.001. Females used on 0.95 (U.S.) and 0.07 (Swedish) days, p<0.001.

Conclusions: This is the first study using the same questionnaires to compare Swedish and U.S. student drinking and marijuana use. (1) Despite similarities in at-risk drinking, predictors of alcohol problems were different in the two countries, making direct implementation of U.S. interventions troublesome without more research. (2) Findings support earlier evidence that U.S. students use marijuana more frequently than Swedish students.

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