For many young college students, going to school is the first time they leave their parent’s nest. It is a time of freedom, soul searching, and experimentation in all forms. However, this newfound freedom causes some young adults to begin engaging in risky behaviors. Recreational drug abuse, prescription drug abuse, and binge drinking are all typical issues that you can find on college campuses. 


Young adults, aged 18 to 24, who are enrolled as full-time students at college make up one of the largest groups of people who abuse substances. In social gatherings, alcohol is a regular attendee. It makes socializing easier for some and is considered an American college past time. However, for many students, frequent drinking and binge drinking is merely a phase. For others, it leads to substance abuse, poor decision making, and addiction. 


Why College Kids Engage in Substance Abuse

There are many reasons why college students abuse substances. In many cases, students don’t view their actions as dangerous or risky. They may abuse substances because of peer pressure or curiosity. Others abuse substances intentionally or even when they know they shouldn’t. Some reasons that college students turn to drugs include:


Peer Pressure

With the high numbers of college students who abuse substances, it’s easy to see how peer pressure plays a role in substance abuse. Between groups of friends who go out drinking, people abusing stimulants to study, and frat parties that are riddled with alcohol, substance abuse is everywhere. Individuals who are exposed to substances on a regular basis are more likely to feel pressure to use substances themselves.


Students face a lot of demands. They have to worry about coursework, social obligations, financial difficulties, internships, part-time jobs, and more. Due to high levels of stress, some turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Although substance abuse may reduce stress short term, this can become a dangerous and unhealthy habit.


Some students get Adderall or other stimulants from their doctors, friends, or drug dealers to help them stay awake to study or complete assignments. Not only do these drugs help students focus and stay awake, but they are commonly mixed with alcohol so people can stay drink longer. Stimulants allow students to cram in a heavy course load and have an exciting social life.

Mental Health Condition

Over the past 10 years, colleges have reported increasing levels of mental health problems among college students.[1] Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can all be difficult to manage if they are not being treated. As a result, some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms of mental illness.


Commonly Abused Substances on College Campuses

The most popular substances of abuse among college students aged 18-24 include:[2][3]

  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a socially acceptable substance that many college students use in social settings. However, college students participate in binge drinking at higher levels than their counterparts. Binge drinking can be seriously dangerous and may indicate an alcohol use disorder
  • Marijuana – With the rapid legalization of marijuana happening in many places, more and more college students use the drug.
  • Adderall (or other ADHD medications) – Adderall, and similar drugs such as Ritalin and Vyvanse, are referred to as “study drugs” due to their stimulant and focus producing effects. Some college students abuse the drug if they are feeling pressure to complete an assignment or stay up late studying.
  • Prescription painkillers – Painkillers are taken by college students for the high and euphoria they produce. Being highly addictive, it is easy to abuse and become dependent on these drugs. When painkillers are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, there is a significant risk for overdose.
  • Ecstasy – Ecstasy, also known as MDMA in its pure form, is common among college-age students. These drugs are most popular at concerts, raves, or parties.


These drugs can all be abused and can be dangerous to college students. However, virtually anybody can abuse any drug. If a college student has a problem with any substance, they should seek an addiction treatment center near them.


Risks & Consequences of College Substance Abuse

Excessive drug or alcohol abuse is dangerous and unhealthy for anyone, but it can be especially detrimental during the young adult years. After all, the brain is still developing, college students are completing their education, and many are preparing for a career. Depending on which substance is abused, substance abuse leads to many major health concerns. Sadly, long-term health concerns aren’t the only danger of college substance abuse. Substance abuse in college can pose some of the following risks:

  • Financial difficulties
  • A decline in academic performance
  • Academic consequences
  • Expulsion
  • Troubles with friends and family
  • Accidental injury
  • Legal troubles
  • Accidental overdose or alcohol poisoning
  • Troubles with addiction


Finding Help at an Addiction Treatment Center Near You

Finding help for substance abuse sooner than later can help save you from further troubles. If you are a college student struggling with substance abuse, you should contact an addiction treatment center near you. Addiction specialists near you can help you overcome substance abuse because you don’t have to do it alone.