It probably comes as no surprise that college students are one of the highest ranking demographic groups for alcohol abuse.
(press release: summitbehavioralhealth) // New Jersey // Maria Ulmer MA, LMFT, CAADC | Chief Clinical Officer
College students and alcohol have been closely associated forever. In fact, as many as 60% of college students report drinking alcohol, and nearly 70% report they have had a drinking binge within the last 30 days. But it isn’t only alcohol that students are using, addiction to illicit and prescription drugs are on the rise on campus as well.
Most Popular Drugs on Campus
Alcohol is, by far, the most used substance on college campuses, with nearly 80% of students partaking. It is also the substance that causes the most problems for students, faculty, and staff on campus. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCAAD), 95% of violence on college campuses is alcohol related.
Dangers of alcohol abuse: Unprotected sex, driving under the influence, assault, sexual abuse and rape, injuries, addiction
Adderall is considered a study drug because it helps students stay alert while they study. It’s presence on college campuses is becoming much more common. Adderall is prescribed for individuals who suffer from Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, about 20% of students admit to using Adderall for help with studying even though they do not have a prescription for it.
Dangers of Adderall abuse: High blood pressure, headaches, dry mouth, weight loss, depression, insomnia, overdose, and addiction
Marijuana is quickly becoming legalized in many states, and campuses are covered with it. On some campuses, marijuana is taking over the number one most used substance ranking from alcohol.
Dangers of Marijuana abuse: Distorted perception, anxiety, paranoia, difficulty thinking, loss of balance, short-term memory problems, increased likelihood of trying other drugs, addiction
Ecstasy is a party drug that was popularized in the nineties and is back on campuses in a purer version – MDMA or Molly. This drug is most popular with high school and college-aged people.
Dangers of MDMA abuse: High blood pressure, dizziness, overdose, loss of consciousness, seizures, kidney failure, heart failure, addiction
OxyContin is a prescription opioid painkiller that is considered the most abused prescription drug in the nation. While the drug may seem safer to college students because it isn’t illicit and doctors prescribe it, the truth is that year over year more college students die from OxyContin overdose.
Dangers of OxyContin abuse: Impaired judgment, overdose, injuries, accidents, risky sexual behavior, addiction
Why Do College Students Use Drugs and Alcohol?
Substance abuse is common among college students for many reasons. Any one of the reasons below can be a cause for a student to use, but many students experience two or more of them at the same time making drug or alcohol use even more likely.
Increased Freedom – Students just starting college are particularly at risk because they are often away from home and parents for the first time. Without parental authority, they are much freer to use drugs or alcohol.
Peer Pressure – College kids (like high schoolers) sometimes feel a significant need to fit in. Drinking or using drugs tend to lower inhibitions and may make socializing easier.
Academic Pressure – The pressure to excel in college may be very high for some students. They may feel that they need drugs to “help” them study or to help them unwind after.
Stress – College students have a lot on their plates – academics, social life, and often times, a job. Needless to say, they may have high levels of stress and that can easily lead to drug or alcohol use and abuse.
Curiosity – College students often want to try things that they haven’t before, and drugs or alcohol may be one of those things.
Availability –Drugs and alcohol are easily accessible on campus and many times they are free because students share with their friends.
Greek Life – Students in fraternities or sororities are 26% more likely to engage in binge drinking than students who don’t participate in Greek Life, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Feeling Inadequate – College students may use or drink to overcome feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.
The Path to Addiction
There is typically a gradual advancement from non-use of drugs or alcohol to full-blown addiction – it doesn’t happen overnight. Of course, the length of time it takes varies from individual to individual and there are other factors (genetic and environmental) that also play a part. While the length of time may depend on various things, the phases of substance use tend to be the same:
Non-use – This is the period of time before an individual has even tried the substance. They have no problem not using the drug.
Social Use – Most people who are not addicts fall into this category. They are able to use drugs or alcohol in a moderate way, typically during social situations. During this phase, they see drugs or alcohol as natural and acceptable at certain events.
Dependence and Addiction – Somewhere along the line, a recreational user crosses into physical and/or psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol due to increased frequency of use and amount of use. At this point, it will be very difficult for an individual to walk away from the substance without help.
Getting Help for College Students
There is good news for students suffering from drug or alcohol addiction – there are many treatment centers that are knowledgeable and equipped to offer them help. Whether they choose to attend an inpatient rehab center or an outpatient program, they are able to get on the path to recovery and get back to their studies.