Addiction in College Students: 6 Alarming Facts

addiction in college students

College life for some students can include binge drinking and abusing drugs. This type of behavior can lead to students becoming addicted.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s most recent survey revealed college students are using not just one substance, but multiple. Some are using every day, others within the past month. For example, 5.2% of college students reported vaping marijuana within the past month.

In this article, we will explore six facts about addiction in college students so you're aware of the risks.

Addiction in College Students

In addition, 62% of college students admitted to drinking alcohol in the past month, with over 30% of those reporting they mix alcohol with some form of energy drink.

Further reports show college students have increased the amount of marijuana they consume, with 4.9% claiming to use daily. Between 30% and 42% of college students reported binge drinking or drinking to the point of intoxication.

Amphetamine use has also risen among college students, with almost 10% abusing Adderall on a regular basis.

These statistics show how easy it can be to move from recreational use to addiction in college students. When a student becomes an addict, there are noticeable signs and symptoms that affect their personal and academic lifestyles.

Below are 6 facts about addiction in college students.

1. How Students Become Addicted

College students try drinking for many reasons. Many will tell you they want to de-stress, relax and have fun. Students abuse amphetamines because they want to focus better and it helps them study. Students use opiates to feel totally numb from the pressures they feel.

Their reasons seem simple enough until they become more and more dependent on the substance. Alcohol and drugs can alter the chemicals in a student’s brain that give them feelings of reward, security, and even happiness.

These are false signals because they are caused only by the substance. But because students want to continue to feel happy and rewarded, they continue to use the substance. This leads to addiction in college students, to a point where the student can no longer live without the substance.

2. Students Will Exhibit Negative Behaviors When They Are Addicted

Skipping classes, sleeping all day, mood swings and changes in weight are just a few of the symptoms of addiction. College students may also drop out of social circles, clubs, and groups they once enjoyed. They may run out of financial resources and ask to borrow money more often.

Some students with an addiction may even start lying or stealing to pay for their drugs or alcohol. They may even get involved in higher-level reckless and criminal behavior. Examples include being abusive, getting into fights, damaging property or driving while intoxicated.

A drop in grades is also a sign of addiction in college students, as well as a change in appearance. Students with an addiction tend to care less about hygiene because they are more focused on getting drunk or high.

3. Students Abuse Multiple Substances at Once

Abusing more than one substance is a sign of addiction in college students. They may start by only drinking alcohol. But when drunk, judgment is lowered, and students make poor decisions. Inhibitions are reduced when drunk too, making it easier for a student to say yes to additional negative behaviors, like taking narcotics while drunk, having sex with a stranger, or taking part in other risky behaviors.

Some college parties are known for students mixing multiple drugs with alcohol. They may drink alcohol, snort cocaine, drink energy drinks with excessive amounts of caffeine, and smoke (marijuana and nicotine). Each action is sending confusing messages to their brain and body. One minute their body is full of energy, the next it is wanting to crash.

These ups and downs can have dangerous, even fatal, physical effects on the student.

4. There is a Family Connection

Studies prove that addiction is hereditary. That means the chances of addiction in college students are increased if family members have also been addicts.

The environment in which a student was raised can also be a factor of addiction of college students. Being raised by addicts can make some students turn completely away from substances. It can make other students follow in the same direction, becoming addicts just like their parents.

If you know there is a family history of addiction, or if the environment in which they grew up involved addiction, take preventative measures to help your college student from taking the same path. Connect them with a therapist or addiction specialist at the onset of any problems.

5. Addiction Can Be Connected to Mental Health Issues

Addiction in college students is often connected to mental health disorders. Sometimes it is hard to determine which came first, the addiction or the mental health condition.

Many times, college students abuse substances to self-treat a mental health issue. Sometimes students develop a mental health disorder because they have abused substances.

No matter how it was acquired, college students should seek treatment for their mental health disorder. There are many on-campus and community resources, such as counseling centers, that can help students who are struggling.

6. Students Can Still Graduate Even If They Have an Addiction

Many think addiction in college students means they must drop out of college, go to rehab, and begin the cycle of relapse and recovery. They don’t envision students completing their college degree program while in recovery.

Fortunately, there are great programs to help students finish college while in recovery. Most colleges have recovery programs that can offer peer to peer mentoring, sober living residences, individual and group counseling, and even sober activities.


More and more colleges are offering positive solutions to the widespread problem of addiction in college students. Whether they need inpatient or outpatient treatment resources, students can find help within their college community.

If you are currently recognizing questionable behaviors of a college student, it is likely they need help. The sooner you recognize the symptoms of addiction in college students, the sooner you can help them get back on track to graduating with a diploma and focusing on building a successful future.