Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology



First Advisor

Laura J. Dixon

Second Advisor

Elicia Lair

Third Advisor

Todd A. Smitherman

Relational Format



Individuals with anxiety disorders are significantly more likely to develop substance use disorders than those without anxiety disorders (Kessler & Greenberg, 2002). Despite a sizeable body of literature focused on etiological and maintenance factors underlying the co-occurrence of substance use and anxiety pathology, this relationship remains poorly understood. Transdiagnostic factors, specifically distress tolerance, anxiety sensitivity, and emotion-driven impulse control difficulties, have been posited to contribute to the relationship of anxiety and substance abuse, and in particular, nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD; Dennhardt & Murphy, 2013; Wolitzky-Taylor et al., 2015). The current study examined group differences among the aforementioned transdiagnostic factors, and whether they served as mediators in the relation of anxiety and NMUPD in a sample of college students. Participants were 184 undergraduate students at the University of Mississippi who either engaged in past year NMUPD or did not. All participants completed a battery of questionnaires and participated in a laboratory task. Counter to the hypotheses, results indicated that there were not significant differences in the transdiagnostic variables among the two groups, and that none of the transdiagnostic variables mediated the relation of anxiety and NMUPD. Compared to non-drug users, drug users reported more substance use overall, including polysubstance use, and reported more self-medication motives for NMUPD than a similar sample of undergraduate students. The findings are consistent with the extant literature indicating that college students who engage in past year NMUPD are at increased risk for other substance abuse, including simultaneous polysubstance use. Future studies should further examine risk factors for NMUPD among college students.



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