Young adults ages 18-24 are at a heightened risk of addiction. Individuals who may be prone to substance use disorders can have a challenging time adjusting to college life. Alcohol and drug use in college is not a new subject, but the following article is a resource for updated information regarding drugs and alcohol in schools. 

Substance Abuse in College Students 

For many young adults, college represents a time of personal growth, discovery, and experimentation. College campuses are home to many instances involving substance use. Despite being a learning environment, substance abuse in college students is extremely common. However, many believe frat parties, late nights, and experimentation are part of the college learning process. 

Most people who partake in binge drinking and recreational drug use transition to a safer lifestyle after college. Unfortunately for some, the way students abuse drugs can lead to long-term addiction. Many variables factor into substance dependence. At BRC Healthcare, we offer resources for students having issues with drug use in college.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse in College Statistics

Alcohol and drug use in college can result in a range of social, mental, academic, and physical problems. In a study among college students, almost half of the participants met the criteria for a substance use disorder. According to the 2019 Monitoring the Future survey, the highest rates of illicit drug use (mainly cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, and hallucinogens) is among the college-age range. 

Statistics of Substance Abuse in College Students

  • The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports more than 50% of college students (age 18-22) drank alcohol within the last month. 
  • The same study showed 33% of college students engaged in binge drinking within the past month.
  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 1,519 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car accidents.
  • Recent NIAAA statistics also estimate almost 700,000 college students are physically assaulted by a peer who has been drinking. 
  • The NIAAA estimates that about 97,000 college students report experiencing date rape or alcohol-related sexual assault. 
  • A quarter of college students struggle with academics due to drugs and alcohol.
  • One in ten college students reports using non-prescribed Adderall within the last year.
  • Since the last decade, MDMA use among college students has more than doubled.
  • In 2018, more than 40% of college students used marijuana.

Drug Abuse in College: Why Students Turn to Drugs and Alcohol

College students who live on campus are forced to adapt to a new lifestyle. This has its benefits and is part of the college learning process. However, in some instances, this can coincide with dangerous decisions like binge drinking and drug use. Drug use in college occurs for several reasons, whether out of curiosity or just to fit in. 

Some students react poorly to the decrease in structure. Others find a way to leverage their new lifestyle and the decisions that come with it. These factors make it easy for substance abuse issues to occur. 

In other cases, drugs like Adderall are often accessible to boost academic performance. This is especially dangerous because college students aged 18-24 are especially at risk for dependence and addiction. 

Peer Pressure

College campuses are home to many weekend parties. Drugs and alcohol are common in social situations. Young college students may feel peer pressure and the need to “fit in” by participating in substance use activities like drinking games or simply socially drinking. Greek life, such as fraternities and sororities, also has a reputation for hosting parties involving drugs and alcohol. 

Parental Substance Abuse

College students who have a family history of substance use disorders are even more at risk of addiction while in college. Many students’ first time drinking may be in college, and while unsupervised, it can get out of hand. 

School-Related Stress

College students experience a lot of stress while in school. Whether related to their academic performance or social life, some students turn to substances to cope. Poor academic performance can be a cause of substance use, and it can also be a symptom. Curiosity

Alcohol and drug abuse among college students are also popular because of curiosity. During this time of transition, college students may feel more free since their parents aren’t watching over them. The ease of finding drugs and alcohol on college campuses also plays a role. 

Beliefs about substance use can also sway some into drinking or using drugs. Because substance use is so common, some college students find that it is both normal and acceptable to use substances. 

Why is College Drug Use a Problem? 

Drug use in college can raise concerns that are not only limited to academics. Short-term and long-term issues may include:

  • Bad academic performance. Missing class, less study time, lower GPA, and worst case: dropping out of school or being expelled.
  • Decline in physical health or accidental injury. Hangovers, injury, lowered immune system, and risk of overdose.
  • Dangerous behavior. College drug use can lead to actions that are out of the realm of normalcy. Especially when inexperienced, alcohol and drugs can lead people to do awful things such as driving under the influence, getting into fights, or risky sexual behavior. 
  • Social consequences. Losing friendships because of substance abuse is a possibility. You may find yourself isolated after a drug and alcohol binge. 

That being said, alcohol has proven to be the most dangerous and popular drug on college campuses. Young adults are at risk for addiction, injury, and poor decision-making while committing alcohol abuse. 

College Students and Drugs: What Drugs are Popular?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), college students abuse alcohol more than any other substance. However, illicit drug use involving prescription drugs and other substances is still common on college campuses. The most common drugs abused among college students include:

  • Marijuana: Vaping, smoking, and consuming marijuana are common in many college students. As mentioned, an estimated 43% of college students use marijuana.
  • Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, and other psychedelic drugs: Though these illicit drugs have a lower risk of addiction, they can still present dangerous situations for college students. 
  • Stimulant medications, such as Adderall: Prescription drug abuse in college students most commonly refers to Adderall. Students use the stimulant as a “study drug” to stay concentrated or to keep awake while studying.
  • Cocaine. A study reported that more than 20% of college students were exposed to an opportunity to use cocaine within the past year. 
  • Opioids and painkillers. Illicit drug use involving opioids and painkillers is extremely dangerous due to the nature of the drug and their risk of addiction. Opioid addiction, in most cases, requires addiction treatment. 

Hope and Help Through Addiction Treatment

Talking to someone about their substance abuse and mental health can be highly challenging. There is no way to force someone into getting help. However, you can voice your concern and hope they get a different perspective on their situation. 

Signs of drug or alcohol use in college students include:

  • Change in personal appearance
  • Avoiding family and friends
  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Skipping classes, decline in academic performance
  • No longer participating in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • Lying about substance use
  • Irritability, aggressiveness
  • Mental health issues, poor concentration, memory issues
  • Using substances despite experiencing negative consequences due to drugs or alcohol
  • Arrests or car accidents
  • Risky behavior, like starting fights

If your loved one is displaying these signs of substance use, explain to them that you are concerned about their well being. Avoid blaming or criticizing. Addiction is a complex disease and must be dealt with accordingly. Instead of being aggressive, let them know that you are an outlet and they can talk to you. Show them that you care about their health.

Detox Programs for College Students

Detoxification sets the foundation for recovery. This step helps individuals get entirely sober. Since drug and alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable, at BRC Healthcare, we offer a medical detox program. If needed, clients are administered medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms and even ease cravings. Without the pain of withdrawal, our clients can focus entirely on their recovery. 

Inpatient Rehab for College Students

Inpatient rehabilitation is recommended for students with severe addiction issues. When committing to a residential program, the individual must put school or work on hold while they receive full-time, live-in treatment. For some, this form of rehabilitation is life-saving. The structured environment ensures each client has full support around the clock. 

Outpatient Rehab for College Students

Young adults in college with less severe substance abuse issues can significantly benefit from outpatient programs. Intensive outpatient programs can be a continuation of care following inpatient treatment. It can also be a standalone level of care for people who opt not to go to more intensive care.

Outpatient programs allow members to participate in individual and group sessions, all while remaining college students. Students can implement the tools they learn in the program to avoid relapse and live a healthy life. 

Therapy Programs for College Drug Use

Therapy programs can be highly beneficial for college students struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Individual and group therapy helps participants develop tools that will encourage them to better understand their emotions and trauma. This will, in turn, help them understand addiction and how it is affecting their life. 

Find Help for Drug Abuse in College With BRC Healthcare 

At BRC Healthcare, each of our individual clients is our priority. We strive to equip each person with the tools they need for their particular situation and personality. Addiction acts differently in every individual, and we understand how difficult life can be through alcohol and drug abuse. We also understand the difficulties of young adults while transitioning to a new stage of their life. If you or a loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder, now is the time to reach out for help. If you have any questions or would like more information, please reach out today.