Drug Abuse in College: 7 Common Substances Abused

drug abuse in college

It is not uncommon for college students to experiment with different substances during their days in college. This behavior can quickly turn into an addiction if students are aware of the risks and dangers of such behavior.

In this article, we are exploring seven of the most common substances abused in college as well as the statistics.

Drug Abuse in College

Parents and students alike are aware of the sort of activities that may occur during college but aren’t aware of the statistics based on long-term studies of students demonstrating such behavior. While it may seem innocent enough, substance abuse can quickly turn into an addiction and have long-lasting effects on the student’s health, performance, and future.

According to a national survey, 35.4% of college students admit to binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row) at least once in the past two weeks. This is just one of the many college student substance abuse statistics that may surprise you.

Take a look at the list below for a better picture of just how much of an impact drug abuse in college can have on students.

1. Alcohol Abuse

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that close to 55% of full-time college students used alcohol in the past month. Of those students, 10% engaged in heavy alcohol use (binge drinking five or more times in the past month).

This study also found over 1,500 college student deaths each year are related to drinking. There were an estimated 696,000 assaults reported by another student who had been drinking, and 97,000 sexual assault or date rape cases each year.

2. Marijuana Abuse

College student substance abuse statistics show marijuana abuse is on the rise. Results from a national study showed 38% of college students had used marijuana at least once in the twelve months prior to the study.

This number has risen over the past few decades and is at its highest today. This may be because an increasing number of college students do not see using marijuana as harmful. In a 2017 survey, only 27% of college students thought that smoking marijuana on a regular basis carried a great risk of harm – the lowest level since 1980.

This may be because society is making marijuana more available medically and recreationally. Students feel that if the government says it is okay, it must be safe.

3. Stimulant Abuse

Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin have prescribed medicines given to students who need help focusing and studying. They are often prescribed for attention deficit disorders.

College students’ substances abuse statistics show the use of stimulants is high. The National Center for Health Research reports that of the tens of thousands of students prescribed stimulants, over half of them are pressured to share their pills with peers.

In one study of 1,300 college students, 25% admitted to using stimulants to help them study. Yet only 9% of them were prescribed stimulants by a physician or psychiatrist. Many students admitting getting or buying the drugs from another student. Also, these drugs are not always used for studying. Because they are amphetamines, some students use them to lose weight or to have more energy. Some mix them with alcohol and other drugs for more of a “high.”

4. Ecstasy Abuse

Ecstasy, also known as molly or MDMA, is also on the rise among college students. They take the drug to get energy – it gives a feeling of euphoria due to the release of dopamine. Ecstasy is known as the club drug or rave drug. It helps students stay up all night and puts them in a happy mood.

College student substance abuse statistics found in the Monitoring the Future Survey show that over 4% of college-aged students reported using ecstasy.

This drug is dangerous for many reasons; to begin because it makes you thirsty. And if a college student is drinking alcohol to quench their thirst, they can become poisoned by the alcohol. This drug can also provide a hangover that lasts for days and may include severe depression, anxiety, and physical sickness. Adding to the risks, the pills or capsules that supposedly contain this drug in “pure” form are often found to contain other additives (when seized by police).

5. Xanax or Benzodiazepine Abuse

College student substance abuse statistics regarding Xanax and benzodiazepines are not as available as other drugs. However, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 4.3% of college-aged students reported abusing this drug.

Xanax is prescribed by doctors to students who experience anxiety or panic attacks. Xanax offers a calming, yet still intoxicating, feeling. Many students prefer Xanax over alcohol to avoid weight gain and hangovers. This is another drug that is shared among peers.

Taking too much can be harmful, as Xanax suppresses the respiratory system and may result in breathing troubles.

6. Prescription Pain Killer Abuse

One study found that 16% of college-age students surveyed had used pain pills that were not prescribed to them. This number increased to 23% among athletes. One-third of respondents stated that prescription pain pills were “easy” to find, with 49.5% saying they could get them within 24 hours. Many students reported that they have seen negative consequences in college as a result of their pain pill misuse.

Prescription pain killers such as opiates also have secondary effects on a college student. Meaning, students are affected by someone they know who has an addiction or who has overdosed from prescription pain pills.

7. Cocaine Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported cocaine is still a problem drug on college campuses, with 4.8% of college students reporting abuse. This college student substance abuse statistic has increased over the last few years.

Cocaine gives students energy, but it can also raise their heart rates to dangerous levels. It increases blood pressure and may have damaging effects on the body’s organs, nasal passages, gums, and teeth.

Cocaine, like most other drugs, costs a lot of money. If they become addicted, students will experience major financial difficulties using this drug. This makes it hard for them to continue to pay for college.

The Good News

While these college student substance abuse statistics may seem out of control, college campuses are doing their part to combat the alcohol and drug abuse problem of their students.

Collegiate recovery programs are being established to help students overcome substance abuse problems and continue their studies. Services provided on campuses include sober living dorms, peer mentoring, sober support groups, counseling, and inpatient or outpatient treatment that matches the student’s level of need.

College campus recovery programs are finding success across the nation, helping students overcome obstacles to reach their goals of being sober and graduating with a degree.