We often hear about the dangers of addiction among teenagers, but college-aged individuals are another especially vulnerable age group. According to survey results reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, among college-aged adults (21-22 years old), 41% use marijuana within a given year. Furthermore, 6% of those who are 18 years of age use marijuana on a daily basis, and 8% of 19-20 year olds use it daily. Finally, 12% of 21-22-year-old individuals use marijuana daily.

Marijuana, Amphetamines, Cocaine, MDMA, and others

Unfortunately, marijuana is not the only drug of concern in college populations. The same survey found that in a given year, 15% of those aged 19 to 20 use illegal drugs other than marijuana, and 20-22% of those aged 21-26 use drugs other than marijuana. Use of these drugs is especially common among those in their early 20’s, when most individuals are attending college, particularly for drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, hallucinogens, and MDMA. Furthermore, in a given year, 9.9% of those in the age range of 20-26 abuse the prescription drug Adderall, an amphetamine designed to treat ADHD.

Alcohol Abuse in College

Probably not surprising is the fact that binge drinking is also a problem in college-aged individuals. For instance, 17% of those aged 18 and ages 19-20 engage in binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks within a single occasion within the two weeks prior to survey completion. In addition, 30-31% of those ages 21 to 28 report binge drinking.

With the high prevalence of drug and alcohol use among college students, this group is at risk of developing addictions. Fortunately, treatment is available.

Reasons for Drug and Alcohol Use in College

It is no secret that college is a time of exploration and independence, and during this stage of life, many young adults experiment with alcohol. In fact, drinking is accepted as being part of the culture on college campuses. Sorority and fraternity events, and much of the night life in college, centers around alcohol use, so much so that this behavior can become normalized.

While drug use may not be as accepted as alcohol use, the reality is that drugs can also show up in the college party scene. When others are experimenting with drugs, college students may feel pressure to try drugs themselves in order to fit in. Research has also shown that only 5 to 7% of young adults feel that experimenting with marijuana is significantly harmful, and those in this age group have become more accepting of ecstasy and LSD use in recent years, making drug use more likely to be accepted and integrated into college culture.

Coping With New Stress

Finally, some students may turn to drugs to cope with the stresses of college. For instance, when faced with pressures to perform on exams and meet multiple class deadlines, students may use drugs like Adderall in order to stay awake and alert. Others may turn to drugs to cope with anxiety associated with school or as a way to self-medicate for depression surrounding feelings of homesickness.

Signs and Consequences of Substance Abuse in College Students

College students who begin to crave drugs and alcohol, continue using them despite difficulty fulfilling their obligations in their classes, or use larger quantities of substances than intended likely have a substance use disorder, which is the clinical name for an addiction. By definition, a substance use disorder is a condition in which a person continues to abuse drugs and alcohol despite significant consequences. A student who has a substance use disorder or addiction may attempt to cut back on drug and alcohol use, but be unsuccessful doing so, or the student may give up friendships and other activities in favor of substance abuse.

Studies have shown that drug and alcohol use during college does come with significant consequences. One study found that nearly half of college students who abuse drugs have felt physically ill because of drug use, and a sizable portion have skipped classes, missed work, or neglected school assignments due to drugs.

Treatment for College Students

If you or a college student in your life is struggling to fulfill academic obligations or is suffering from other consequences associated with drug or alcohol use, it is time to seek treatment. College students may feel as if they are alone if they are coping with drug and alcohol abuse, but most colleges and universities offer campus wellness centers where students can receive confidential services from a therapist or counselor to discuss issues like addiction.

Virtual Treatment Options for College Students

Another option for college students is virtual treatment, available via a telehealth platform. If this is your preference, iRecoveryUSA offers comprehensive addiction treatment services via our telehealth platform, so you can begin treatment from wherever you are. We also accept insurance to make treatment more affordable. Visit our website today to learn more.