Graduation Date

Summer 2021

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Gregg Gold

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Whitney Ogle

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Brandilynn Villarreal

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people of all ages causing increased drug usage and worsening mental health in addition to hospitalization and death. The current study investigated how the United States’ stay-at-home orders affected the mental health and drug use of young adult college students. This population is of particular interest because young adults are at most risk of drug use developing into addiction. Two hypotheses related to the self-medication hypothesis were investigated: (1) there will be a significant increase in drug use during the stay-at-home order when compared to drug use prior to the stay-at-home order and (2) feelings of isolation and poorer mental health symptoms will be positively related to greater use of non-stimulant drugs. One-hundred and thirty-nine college students were recruited from Cloud Research and social media to fill out a survey. A significant positive correlation was found between nicotine use and feelings of isolation/depressive symptoms. This is consistent with the self-medication hypothesis, which posits that one will self-prescribe drugs to relieve psychological discomfort. In post-hoc exploratory analyses this research found that increased financial hardship and COVID-19 related stress were positively associated with higher reported depressive symptoms, anxiety, and boredom proneness. Additionally, COVID-19 related stress was positively associated with feelings of isolation. The current finding differs from research prior to COVID-19 that found increased nicotine use in young adult college students was not associated with increased depressive symptoms. This suggests that pandemic related stressors are associated with worsening mental health for college students across the United States.

Citation Style



Thesis/Project Location