The 5 Most Commonly Abused Drugs in College

For many students, going away to college is one of the first times they’re away from home for an extended period of time. The freedom to manage your own time and make your own decisions can be exciting to students interested in developing new experiences.

Students often turn to alcohol during social events as a means to relax and have fun, but alcohol is just one of the drugs of choice.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at five of the most commonly abused drugs in college as well as some of the resources available for those who hope to avoid substance abuse in college.

The Most Commonly Abused Drugs

Alcohol may be one of the most commonly abused drugs on campus, but it’s far from the only drug students explore.

We know students turn to alcohol for a variety of reasons, many of which involve the pursuit of a new experience, extended fun, or the ability to focus longer. Similarly, students may explore different drugs for different reasons. This can quickly develop into an addiction if students aren’t careful, as some drugs are more addictive than others.

1. Marijuana

Marijuana is the most abused drug on college campuses. According to research, out of the last three decades, marijuana abuse is at its highest level. In fact, 21 percent of those studied admitted to smoking marijuana in the last 30 days.

This can be alarming since much of the marijuana being dealt illegally can be laced with some other drug like cocaine, heroin or fentanyl. These mixtures can have fatal consequences.

Today, there are many CBD and Hemp products on the market, targeted for college students and sold in most convenience stores. While these do not have THC, as marijuana does, students tend to think they can still get high if they use enough of these products.

Each product is created for a purpose. CBD gummies for anxiety, hemp tablets to help you sleep, oils to help you stay away and energy drinks. If there is an issue, there is a product to fix it.

2. Stimulants

Over the last decade, the making of prescription stimulants has increased by 9 million percent. This means more kids, including college students, are being prescribed drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, the so-called study drug.

This becomes a problem when students who are given a prescription decide to sell their pills to peers, either for the money or because of peer pressure. This can affect both their social status and their ability to study and make good grades.

The students who take stimulants but do need them may not realize they are creating blood pressure, vision and even sleep problems for themselves. In some cases, death can occur, especially when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, like many college students choose to do.

3. Narcotics

Opioids are the reason for over 100 deaths every day. College campuses are not exempt from this drug and its effects. Opioids include drugs like oxymorphone, hydromorphone, oxycontin, and morphine. They cause a relaxing, calm feeling in the body. And in the brain, they create a feeling of reward. That’s because they spike the dopamine chemicals and do so much higher than your brain can do on its own.

Because your brain wants to continue this feeling of reward, it encourages the use of opioids. Hence, addiction happens. But opioids are not the only narcotic being abused by college students.

Anti-anxiety medicines like Xanax and Ativan are common and until the last year or so, have been easy to obtain.

Drugs such as these are dangerous enough when taken orally. Unfortunately, some students change the way the drugs are used to reach a “high” much quicker. Some crush and snort the pills, while others inject them straight into their veins. All methods can be fatal when abused.

4. Hallucinogens

LSD, Mushrooms, Ecstasy, Molly and Salvia are some of the hallucinogens found on college campuses. Students report they use hallucinogens to escape the stressors of college life. They like the way they feel on these drugs, which is heightened.

Each of the sensory receptors is increased with hallucinogens. Colors appear more vibrant, touch feels more sensitive, and so on.

Hallucinogens are just as dangerous as other drugs, however. They last a lot longer and many times can have negative sensual effects. For instance, one student may see roses and candy and rainbow colors, while another student may see spiders and snakes and dull colors.

The risk is not worth it.

5. Cocaine

College students are using cocaine at parties and clubs, according to some reports. They do this because it offers them a feeling of vitality, clarity, and excitement. Cocaine is rarely used by itself, though. Many college students are mixing cocaine with alcohol. They are mixing a stimulant with a sedative, which can lead to dangerous outcomes.

Over-the-Counter Drugs

Over the counter (OTC) drugs can be purchased at any big box or grocery store. Cold and cough medicines, as well as motion sickness pills are being abused by college students. Some have found that OTC drugs make you feel euphoria and mild stimulation, cause hallucinations, loss of coordination, visual problems, as well as out of body sensations.

Aside from these symptoms, OTC drugs can cause irregular heart rate, changes in blood pressure, coma and even death.

How to Avoid Substance Abuse on Campus

Many college campuses offer programs that help students avoid substance abuse, recover from addiction, and manage mental health issues that may be associated. The Haven at College offers treatment centers, substance-free dorms, and peer-to-peer mentoring, which provides students the resources and support needed to stay focused on their academic goals.

These programs offer students a safe place in which they can thrive and enjoy the college experience. Many of these programs offer sober activities, support for harm reduction, and individual counseling as well.

Life in college can be stressful, but students with access to the right supportive resources and peers can thrive.

Photo by Siora Photography