Substance Abuse Among College Students: A Lesson For Society

Drug Use Among College Students

Why do college students use drugs?

Many factors trigger substance abuse among college students. Changes in the environment, new social roles, peer pressure, hazing rituals are some of the reasons why students do drugs. Other reasons include high levels of social anxiety, extra stress, new responsibilities, copying the parental behavior and desire to experiment. Studies show that having too much free time is a leading factor.

What drugs do college students use?

There’s a broad range of substances that young adults in college abuse. The most popular drug is alcohol. The scary truth is that, according to data, more than 1,825 students (18-24 years old) die due to alcohol. Nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs, such as Adderall, and heroin are also on the list of popular drugs among students.

Substance Abuse Among College Students: Facts Exposed

Drugs and college are two words that pair perfectly. Let’s be frank, all of us have high expectations and memories related to college life: independence, freedom, and much more. And there’s one thing that makes us feel only a step away from making all our dreams come true: drugs. Since the beginning of civilization drugs have been the way to achieve inner peace. You can reach God and act as your real Self with no worries.

It’s not surprising that young people use drugs, especially in college. The desire to experiment, to fit and be “cool,” are only some of the reasons behind drug use among college students. Others include coping with stress and peer pressure, numbing the pain or embarrassment, to deal with unstructured time and boredom.

Whatever the reason is, the truth is that many young people still don’t have the right amount of experience. They don’t have the self-awareness to resist their urges or leading trends, and they often become victims to drug addiction. The one sip of alcohol or the one shot of heroin often grows into substance abuse and addiction.

The alarming facts behind drugs in college are:

  • Many students have tried some drugs prior college
  • 3.8 million, which is half of all full-time students, abuse drugs
  • Four out of five students participate in heavy drinking
  • 40% of students engage in binge drinking
  • 600,000 students suffer injuries due to drinking and 1,825 die due to alcohol
  • Students report having tried heavy drugs, such as heroin and cocaine

Why Do College Students Use Drugs?

To answer why college students abuse drugs might be complex and too individual for each. Why do people wear make-up and buy expensive clothes, for example? To fit in society is one of the main reasons. Same is with drugs. College exposes students to a new environment, they are away from their families and friends, and they have new responsibilities. Therefore, they have to fit. All the parties organized in college are something that new students feel they ought to follow. Additionally, the best way to fit is to be like the rest – drunk and high.

Drug Use Among College StudentsOften, the characteristic of this new environment is strong peer pressure. Data shows that early weeks (first six weeks of freshmen year) in college are crucial. Greek-letter organizations and different sports clubs often force people to do dangerous things, and hazing is a huge challenge. Often that results in manslaughter. Data shows that fraternity and sorority rituals in the U.S. have caused more than 125 deaths.

Another trigger is the additional stress college students experience. Exams, new social roles, and tuition fees can cause a lot of troubles and negative thoughts. One of the easiest ways to forget and relief the negativity is to use drugs. Students admit taking stimulants only to improve their academic performance.

Like any other drug use, substance use among college students can start from individual factors:

  • History of abuse
  • Coping parental behavior
  • Break-ups and bullying
  • Social anxiety and poor communication skills

Studies also show that the biggest problem is the free time college students have. Drugs are also seen as a way to experiment something everyone talks about and bans and to enjoy weird realities.

Types Of Drugs In College

The variety of drugs college students do is rich as the range of reasons behind substance abuse.


The most popular drug students abuse in college is alcohol. Being more socially tolerable and easy to obtain, alcohol leads many people to addiction and death. This is regardless of the fact that the legal age is 21.

Binge drinking is another huge problem among students. It’s having five drinks for men and four for women in a row with the intention to intoxicate one’s self. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals scary figures: 40% percent of students engage in binge drinking.

Alcohol can lead to poisoning. When consumed in massive doses, alcohol is a depressant and can lead to coma. Alcohol can be lethal, especially when mixed with other drugs or energy drinks.

In addition, regular drinking habits can cause health problems, especially related to liver failure. What is more, frequent drinking can grow into alcoholism.


Let’s not forget something that often doesn’t count for a drug. Although tobacco can be found almost everywhere, just like alcohol, nicotine addiction is one of the hardest to overcome. Smoking is responsible for many cases of smoking-related lung cancer and many other health issues. Data shows that 24.8% of full-time college students smoke. This is a warning sign for many campuses to follow the smoke-free laws across the country.


Smoking weed is another huge problem. Cannabis opens many discussions about its addictive properties and legal status due to some beneficial medical effects it has. While it’s true that cannabis can be helpful for various medical conditions, studies show that it can be highly addictive. 47% of students admit that they have tried cannabis and unfortunately, 9% of users, statistics reveal, become addicts. In addition, using marijuana in college can play a dangerous trick. It’s because this drug leads to memory problems and difficulties with problem-solving.

Illicit drugs

Apart from cannabis, students often try a wide range of other illicit drugs.

Stimulants are students’ favorite because they boost their energy levels and give them the chance to party and study. Cocaine and amphetamines are some of the magical drugs for this purpose.

Here we should mention Ecstasy. It is a strange mix of a stimulant and a hallucinogen that gives the user the needed energy. They also sprinkle the experience with some impressive visuals. Not surprisingly, this is one of the popular drugs called rave drugs, highly popular in the 90s.

Talking about hallucinogens, LSD is also a drug that students often experiment with due to the unforgettable trips it offers. Want to experience weird visuals and colorful realities? You must remember that LSD can cause scary trips and dangerous acid flashbacks.

There are also many opiates students abuse. One of the highly addictive opioid drugs is heroin. All illicit drugs are highly addictive and can lead to severe withdrawal and death. Polydrug use may result in intoxication, which can be lethal.

Prescription drugs

Recently there’s a boom of prescription drugs abuse. That’s why they are new epidemics. People often have the wrong perception that when prescribed by a health professional, drugs are harmless. The frightening truth is that prescription drugs, such as sleeping pills and painkillers, lead to addiction. Furthermore, they can cause painful withdrawal and death. In the end, a shot of heroin and a pill of Sonata can be equally dangerous.

Adderall, for example, is one of the drugs abused by college students. Initially doctors prescribe them for the treatment of ADHD. Many students practice doctor shopping and exchange/sell prescriptions to obtain the drug. It’s a stimulant and helps them stay up late. Like any other drug, Adderall contains severe risks for the health.

There are also other easily obtained drugs, such as cough medicines, that students abuse due to their recreational properties.

Legal Intoxicants

Unfortunately, there are many new drugs that are available on the Internet that can be deadly poisonous. Note that legal highs can be more dangerous than other drugs.

Substance Abuse In College & Consequences

There are many negative effects drugs cause. Drug abuse leads to many physical changes and health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and liver failure. Side effects of drugs use can include allergic reactions (hives, rash, etc.) that can be fatal. Mixing drugs can lead to breathing difficulties and coma.

In addition, drug use can lead to addiction. Unfortunately, it comes with severe withdrawal symptoms (body aches, diarrhea, dizziness, etc.).

Not only the physical status but the emotional and cognitive states of the user change. Using various substances can lead to memory problems, confusion, hallucinations, negative and suicidal thoughts, and mood swings.

All this can lead to behavioral changes, such as aggressive behavior, social isolation, and problems in one’s sexual life.

Drug Use Among College StudentsThere are some indirect effects of drug abuse. Poor academic performance is a common effect due to substance abuse. One out of four students reports having lower grades due to drinking, a national survey exposes. Remember, college education in the United States is extremely expensive. Parents and authorities should work with their children towards a sober life. Not only students that use drugs suffer but non-drinking students that have to “babysit” a high colleague.

Accidents and injuries are also a severe consequence. For instance, 600,000 students suffer a drinking-related injury every year. Around 696,000 students report having been assaulted by a drunken student. Furthermore, around 97,000 people in college report having become victims of date rape or sexual assault. In addition, STD and unwanted pregnancy are some of the consequences of drug use and unsafe sex.

Maybe one of the consequences that alarms the whole nation is drink-driving. The terrifying truth is that more than 3.3 million students drive after drinking.

Substance abuse results in other crimes as well such as vandalism, property damage, litter. These are “secondhand effects.”

From bad health to ruined families and future, substance abuse in college can be fatal. According to data, more than 1,825 students (18-24 years old) die due to alcohol. The numbers are higher when we take the emergency cases and death caused by other drugs.

Substance Abuse Among College Students | Warning Signs & Treatment

Whatever the reasons behind drug use and the substance of choice are, drug abuse among college students has devastating consequences. It’s not only for the users but their families and the people around them.

Therefore, always be aware of signs of substance abuse and addiction:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in weight
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor academic performance
  • Missed classes
  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Sleeping problems
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Traffic accidents
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal inclinations

Also, if you notice any unusual objects, pills or bottles in your child’s or friend’s room, try to start a conversation. You should always be open and supportive.

If you think that you might have a drug problem:

  • Can’t control your drug intake
  • Surround yourself with people who drink and take drugs
  • Notice warning changes in your physical and emotional state
  • Experience cravings
  • Spend too much on drugs
  • Have problems in college and with the law

There is no shame in asking for help. There are many hotlines and charities that offer counseling and support.

There’s a light in the tunnel. Many educational institutions try to promote a drug-free environment and engaging curriculum to keep students busy, motivated and fulfilled. Also, there’s more good news. Authorities are working with parents and organize campaigns to educate and support young adults during their journey in college. This is a journey that is a starting point for their future life.
Have a bright and clean one!