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Open Access Research article

Peer substance use overestimation among French university students: a cross-sectional survey

Lionel Riou Franca12*, Bertrand Dautzenberg34, Bruno Falissard156 and Michel Reynaud157

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM U669 - Maison de Solenn - 97, bvd de Port-Royal - 75679 Paris Cedex 14, France

2 Université Paris 6 - Pierre et Marie Curie - 4 place Jussieu - 75005 Paris, France

3 Faculté de Médecine Pierre et Marie Curie, UPRES EA2397 - 91, 105 boulevard de l'Hôpital - 75013 Paris, France

4 Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), Service de pneumologie et réanimation - GH Pitié Salpêtrière Division Montyon - 75651 Paris cedex 13, France

5 Université Paris-Sud 11 and Université Paris Descartes 5 - UMR-S0669 - Maison de Solenn - 97, boulevard de Port-Royal - 75679 Paris cedex 14, France

6 Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), Hôpital Paul Brousse, département de santé publique - 12, avenue Paul-Vaillant-Couturier - 94804 Villejuif Cedex

7 Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), Hôpital Paul Brousse, unité fonctionnelle d'addictologie - 12, avenue Paul-Vaillant-Couturier - 94804 Villejuif Cedex

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:169  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-169

Published: 29 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Normative misperceptions have been widely documented for alcohol use among U.S. college students. There is less research on other substances or European cultural contexts. This study explores which factors are associated with alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use misperceptions among French college students, focusing on substance use.

Methods

12 classes of second-year college students (n = 731) in sociology, medicine, nursing or foreign language estimated the proportion of tobacco, cannabis, alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking among their peers and reported their own use.

Results

Peer substance use overestimation frequency was 84% for tobacco, 55% for cannabis, 37% for alcohol and 56% for heavy episodic drinking. Cannabis users (p = 0.006), alcohol (p = 0.003) and heavy episodic drinkers (p = 0.002), are more likely to overestimate the prevalence of use of these consumptions. Tobacco users are less likely to overestimate peer prevalence of smoking (p = 0.044). Women are more likely to overestimate tobacco (p < 0.001) and heavy episodic drinking (p = 0.007) prevalence. Students having already completed another substance use questionnaire were more likely to overestimate alcohol use prevalence (p = 0.012). Students exposed to cannabis prevention campaigns were more likely to overestimate cannabis (p = 0.018) and tobacco use (p = 0.022) prevalence. Other identified factors are class-level use prevalences and academic discipline.

Conclusions

Local interventions that focus on creating realistic perceptions of substance use prevalence could be considered for cannabis and alcohol prevention in French campuses.