Substance Abuse in College Students

Read on in this article to learn how to spot and deal with substance abuse in college students.

Addiction in Young People

Leaving home and moving into a college dorm is an exhilarating feeling for millions of freshmen every year. Living on your own for the first time can be freeing and scary at the same time. All college students want is to be accepted, make their families proud, and have fun. Adapting to college life isn’t as easy as it may look from the outside.

There are various reasons for substance abuse, excessive drinking, and more in students in college. They could be under academic stress, peer pressure, or anxious about deciding to go to college. These reasons, plus many more, could cause a student to want to find a way to cope and find relief from what they’re feeling.

Students need to know there are ways to deal with their problems that do not involve alcohol or drugs. There’s help and treatment available when they’re ready to use it.

Substance abuse in students is prevalent. Younger people, especially college students, can be vulnerable to specific types of substance abuse. Their age and location play a huge part in what is available to them.


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A Discussion on “Academic Doping”

Commonly Abused Substances in College


Substance abuse in students usually starts with drinking alcohol. It’s most likely available at parties, both on and off-campus. Young adults never think of the consequences initially, and they want the fun you can have by drinking. Young adults need to understand alcoholism as soon as possible to do their best to avoid it.

A student assumes having a hangover may very well be the only drawback and possibly sleeping in for class. However, in many students, this isn’t the only side effect. At this age, they don’t realize or know themselves well enough to understand if they’re prone to addiction.
It’s important to make college students very aware of every aspect and consequence that heavy drinking can cause them. No one wants to be diagnosed with alcoholism because it’s a terrible disease to combat.1


Substance abuse in students with marijuana is almost as easily accessible as alcohol. They can find it at social events, parties, and in plenty of other ways.
Students who would never even think of trying marijuana in the past may be more likely to try it in college due to added factors in their newfound lives. Stress, anxiety, relationships, and feeling overwhelmed about situations may lead students to try marijuana in college.2

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants are medications used to treat different types of attention deficit disorders. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a widespread medical condition. ADHD requires these types of medications.
These medications are also known as amphetamines. If taken as prescribed, they’re safe and effective. Unfortunately, substance abuse in students with these medications isn’t uncommon. College students can find themselves taking them when they don’t even have the medical condition they’re used to treating.
They may have a friend who shares them because they think they’re helping their friend focus or stay calm in a stressful situation. In these cases, students can find themselves at risk for so many health issues and could also become dependent on the medication.3


Substance abuse in students by using cocaine seems to be on the rise in recent years. Cocaine Addiction is the party drug of choice for many college students and young adults, and it can be cocaine or crack cocaine. It provides euphoria and a lasting effect students want. Crack cocaine addiction isn’t an easy path to recovery.

Younger students in college, such as freshmen, aren’t adding to this new data. Young adults, such as juniors and seniors in college crossing over into adulthood, contribute to this number.

Cocaine use is the primary substance that brings students into emergency rooms. Many students decide to try cocaine and sometimes take their use to an entirely new level because even though they feel like adults, they don’t understand the full consequences of the drug and what cocaine addiction does to the body.4


Benzodiazepines are used to help you sleep and can treat anxiety. If used properly, they’re safe and will give you the desired effect. Substance abuse in students with this medication is common because they become burnt out from studying, working, adjusting to party life, and needing to calm down and rest.5
If they choose this type of drug and overuse it, they may become dependent on it, leading to more severe health risks. One common point to note is that of all the people who find themselves addicted to taking this type of medication, only 22% of them are prescribed the medication.
Usually, the ones at risk are the ones who were given the benzodiazepines from friends or family members who thought they were only helping.

It’s never a good idea to take any medication that isn’t prescribed to you. This is a statement that can’t be reinforced enough.


Polydrug use is a genuine issue for college students. Ecstasy has been added to the list of the multiple drugs students are using and have access to regularly. Students have no clue what they’re getting involved in when they pick up a drug for the first time.
No college student or young adult wants to become dependent on any substance, but it’s becoming more and more standard in today’s society. Getting high is considered fun, and we need to remove this thinking from our college students’ minds.6
Ecstasy is a drug that provides both a hallucinating effect and a stimulant. This drug is well-known as a club drug and is popular in the party scene.

Tracking Drug Use in College Students

Why Do Students Turn to Drugs?

It’s very easy to recognize that college life comes with its fair share of ups and downs. Every student is there for education and to experience life on their own for the first time. They’re left alone to make their own choices, and in many cases, they aren’t ready for that type of responsibility. Getting high can be a choice that students see as no big deal unless they’re appropriately educated.

They think listening to their parents is unnecessary, but this is a crucial part of your life. Having family support is a valuable tool to have in your pocket.


Stress is most definitely the number one reason a college student may turn to any form of substance abuse. Studying, working, making, and keeping friends, along with managing freedom, can be one of the most stressful times of your life.7
Many students don’t know where to turn for help when they feel stressed out. It’s easier to turn to a friend that will help you cope by handing you a simple pill or maybe a drink. However, that’s not the way to handle stress.
You need to learn coping mechanisms that can help you for life. Stressful situations are a part of life and learning to deal with them early on is one of the most beneficial ways to help yourself not only now but in the future as well.

Peer Pressure

Campus life is fun, active, and entertaining. College students want to fit in. They’re away from their home and families and their regular routines. If they want to make friends and feel part of a group, they may easily succumb to peer pressure.7
College students don’t want to be called out for not taking a dare, or maybe they want to be part of a sorority. Peer pressure is everywhere.
Peer pressure follows you from childhood to adulthood. The sooner you learn to deal with it, the better.


Many college students will be new to college and life experiences. They may have grown up sheltered from some of the harsh truths in life. When they get to college, they find themselves asking a lot of questions.7
It’s not a bad thing to be curious and ask questions. Asking questions is how we learn. The problem is when the questions involve asking about something that could cause you harm, and being too curious about the answer to something harmful could lead you down the wrong path.

Academic Pressure

College is a place of learning. You’re there to explore your future possibilities and soak in all of the knowledge you will need for the coming field you have chosen. If a student isn’t performing as well as they want, they may feel pressure to succeed. This can quickly lead to substance abuse.
College students put so much pressure on themselves. They feel the need to make their family proud, get good grades, and make a good life from the foundation college will give them. Many students crack under this pressure and find themselves in a dark place. They need to learn how to cope and deal with serious issues so this doesn’t happen.7

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Substance Abuse in College Students

Parents and loved ones need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. Your student needs you to understand them and help them if you see the signs. You don’t want to treat them negatively. Families should show their support if they suspect their college student suffers from substance abuse.

Physical Changes

If you suspect your college student of substance abuse, consider physical aspects. If someone suffers from a drug dependency, they tend to look unkempt and disheveled. This is a prevalent sign of addiction in most people.8

Mental/Behavioral Changes

A college student will exhibit many harmful signs if suffering from substance abuse. They may have failing grades and are skipping a lot of classes. They could become moody and irritable and not seem like themselves.8
Many students who suffer from a substance abuse issue begin sleeping way too much and have mood swings that could have them very happy, sad, or angry at any given time and for no reason.
Parents and families know their loved ones the best, and they’ll be the first to notice any changes. Always keep in close contact with your student when they’re away at college. They may not act like it, but they need you.

Additional Cues for Addiction

Dangers of Drug Use in Students

The dangers of drug use for college students are widespread. They could be at risk for failing, having a scholarship canceled, and losing the trust of everyone they depend on.

The dangers increase the longer they continue to abuse the substances and lead to more than financial and academic issues.


Any drug use can end very badly. When you take or abuse a drug that is not prescribed to you, you run the risk of overdosing, being in an accident, serious health issues, and even death. Being a young college student doesn’t make you invincible.
If you feel you are at risk, you need to seek help immediately. This is not a time to play a guessing game or question if you have a problem. You have support all around you at your school and in your family. Use all that support to your advantage.


Being involved in any substance abuse in college can make a student prone to being assaulted. When you take any substance, you lose your clear thinking, and it’s easy for someone to use that to harm you.
College parties are known to put young adults in dire situations, and you don’t want to become another statistic.


Overdosing on a substance is common and happens more than you would think. A young college student can be a fireball of emotions, and the littlest setback can cause them to want to escape. No matter what type of overdose, it’s not something anyone should experience.

Many students may take a drive or workout to help deal with high-stress situations, but for those dependent on drugs and alcohol, this stressful time can cause them to turn to more significant amounts of drugs, which can lead to overdosing.

What is Binge Drinking?


Binge drinking is when you purposely drink a substantial amount of alcohol, wanting to get as intoxicated as possible as fast as you can. Binge drinking is common for a lot of reasons. Many people think it’s a typical weekend activity, but that’s not the case for college students. Especially those that aren’t even the legal age to drink.9
Excessive drinking and overdrinking are considered no big deal to some, but they can be crippling for young college students. Over drinking isn’t a normal activity and shouldn’t be looked at like it is.

Who Binge Drinks?

Anyone can binge drink for several reasons. College students may decide they deserve a weekend of blowing off steam after a challenging academic week. Adults can binge drink after a bad week at work. Excessive drinking can be just another Friday night for a lot of people.
Anyone can make up a reason to binge drink at any time for any reason. Four or more drinks on one occasion are considered binge drinking. Managing your alcohol intake is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle over a long period.

What are the Risks?

The risks of binge drinking are long-term severe health issues such as liver problems and cancers and can cause violence in many people. A massive population of drinkers becomes mean or angry when they drink, and if they binge drink a lot, they increase violent encounters with those around them.

Binge drinking can cause altercations that could lead to arrests or vehicle accidents, and overall, binge drinking isn’t a good idea at all.

Getting Back on Track

Substance Abuse in College Students

The one thing about substance abuse to remember is you can always find a way to stop it. You can claim your life back; substance abuse isn’t a life sentence. Substance abuse in students can be dangerous, but it can be treated in a way that will allow them to go on and live a normal, happy life.

Heavy drinking and partying can be fun until it isn’t. Learning about your limits early on is essential.

Seek Professional Help

There are counselors and treatment options everywhere you look. You can choose how you want to deal with your issue, whether heavy drinking, prescription medication problems, etc., once you decide it has to stop. For a program to work, you have to want the help available.
Your parents, professors, friends, and family all want what’s best for you and are ready to help you in any way they can. Anyone wishing to overcome substance abuse will need a strong support system along the way.
You’re not alone, and everyone around you wants you to reclaim your life and rebuild. While getting help, you’ll go through what’s called addiction withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal, as well as other withdrawal symptoms, can be very hard on your body. This is when your body gets rid of the toxins from the inside out. Addiction withdrawal is one of the most challenging parts of recovery and getting better.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness is a huge part of the recovery method. Anyone struggling with addiction wants to have their head in the right place. You want to feel great on the inside first, and then the physical aspects will return to normal.
Psychology is a big part of recovery, and counseling will help in more ways than you could ever imagine. Educate yourself and be aware of your decisions. This is the best advice you can take with you when you begin your college years.