5 Reasons the Substance Abuse Rate is High Among College Students

Written By Jeff Mahre BA MFA MLIS - February 25th, 2019
5 Reasons the Substance Abuse Rate is High Among College Students

Thousands of college students each year are likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. More than one-third of full-time students in college have gone on a drinking binge while in college. Approximately 1 out of every 5 college students have participated in illicit drug activity. With this elevated substance abuse occurring, more college students run the risk of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Continue reading to learn why the substance abuse rate is so high for college students.

Why Do College Students Start Using Drugs?

It isn’t just the fact that the years spent in college are meant for exploring and experimenting that causes students to use drugs. There are a number of different reasons that play into why a student may start their drug use in college. These students may be feeling stress, peer pressure, or overloaded with their classes.

1. Newfound Freedom

When students who are fresh out of high school go to college, they are experiencing a new sense of freedom. Their parents are no longer peeking over their shoulders making sure that they follow the rules.

Students find themselves with the ability to push the boundaries of their newly found adult lives. College is the time where students will find themselves experimenting with things that they are curious about.

2. Course Overload (and High Expectations)

As classes start to get harder, students may find it difficult to focus in order to get everything done on time. Students may use stimulants in order to keep themselves focused and awake longer in order to get more work done.

3. The Pressure to Be Perfect

Students going into college may have parents and family members that are expecting a lot out of them. Maybe they are expected to get straight As in every class and to cram their schedules with all of the clubs and societies that will look good on the resumes that they are building.

These students feel that pressure and then they succumb to the need to manage these feelings and hefty schedules with drugs and alcohol.

4. Peer Pressure and the Desire to Fit In

One of the biggest things for people in the college-age group is making new friends in a new environment. They want to fit in and they may be pressured into using drugs and drinking alcohol as a means to do so.

5. Anxiety and Stress

The new environment, the harder classes, and all of this pressure place a lot of stress on college students. They may even be struggling with anxiety on top of everything else.

6. Preexisting Risk Factors

There is a chance of these students choosing to take part in drug use because of preceding factors. This is including, but not limited, to poor academic performance, mental illness, history of aggression, lack of a supportive parental figure, or even lower economic status.

Which Drugs Do College Students Typically Use?

Adderall, Alcohol, Marijuana, and MDMA are the most common types of drugs used by college students. The drugs being used seems to follow a bit of a pattern.

As marijuana is becoming legal across the US, it seems that it is becoming more commonplace than even alcohol on some campuses. Anxious or stressed students might turn to smoking marijuana in order to relax at the end of a rough day. Maybe they are drinking alcohol to shake off the stress of a rough week.

Adderall is known as a “study drug”. It is among other prescription medications meant for ADHD that students have been found to be using irresponsibly for focusing or staying awake so that they can continue to study when they are feeling burnt out. In some cases, college students might turn to uppers, like cocaine and methamphetamines, to get the same reaction.

When students are feeling pressured by other students to fit in, they might be taking MDMA (also known as ecstasy) or other party drugs that heighten the party experience by altering connections and senses.

Regardless of why they are choosing drugs over healthier coping mechanisms, it is still highly dangerous and can lead to addiction.

What Are the Risks of Drug Use in College?

Drug-related overdose/death and drug addiction are at the top of the list when it comes to the risk of using drugs. The occasional use of drugs in college can follow you around for the rest of your life. Using drugs can also lead to making poor decisions, transmitting infectious diseases, and damage to major organs that will affect your quality of life.

Substance abuse can threaten your academics. When students use drugs, they are likely to miss a lot of class. It is likely that they will fail courses and, in some cases, drop out of school.

What Can Be Done About the Higher Substance Abuse Rate Among College Students?

The key to lowering the high substance abuse rate among college students is a mixture of two things.

One, we need to further educate high schoolers on what college will be like and how drugs won’t help them to succeed. We need to instill into our students and children the better coping mechanisms to get through their higher education without getting high or drunk.

Two, we need to get the students the help that they need when they are struggling. If you have a student or a college-aged child that is struggling with addiction, recommend that they see a substance abuse counselor. With your help and support, they will be better prepared to overcome substance abuse.

Call Addiction Detox today to get you or your loved one the help that they need to get out from under the difficulty of addiction.