Campus Drugs: Addiction and Abuse in College

Substance addiction and abuse in college is on the rise. Young adults ages 18 to 24 are at a heightened risk of addiction. Plus, full-time students are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than their non-college peers. Stress from heavy coursework coupled with curiosity and peer pressure make drugs seem appealing. Drug abuse is associated with diminished academic performance and high-risk behaviors. Unfortunately, what starts out as recreational use can turn into addiction. 

What are the most popular drugs on college campuses?

Alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills are the most commonly used substances for university students. Three out of four students drink alcohol during their college years. Forty-three percent report using recreational marijuana. About a quarter of college-aged adults have misused controlled medication at some point. 

Alcohol Abuse and Extreme Binge Drinking

Most people drink during their college years. The occasional alcohol beverage isn’t harmful. However, the prevalence of binge drinking in college is striking. College students have higher instances of binge drinking and driving under the influence than non-college peers. Universities with large fraternities, sororities, and athletic programs see more alcohol misuse than other schools.

Binge drinking, having five or more drinks in a row, is common in around thirty percent of students. In a recent survey, nearly ten percent of respondents reported extreme binge drinking—ten or more drinks in a row—within the past two weeks. The consequences of drinking to excess affect students, families, and communities. Each year, around 1,500 college students die from alcohol-related injuries and accidents. Alcohol use also increases the rates of physical and sexual assault. Alcohol misuse impacts academics as well. About a quarter of students miss class or get behind on schoolwork due to drinking. 

Recreational Marijuana Use

Marijuana use among college students is at a thirty-five year high. This trend correlates with a similar increase in vaping and nicotine use. This trend is echoed among young adults who don’t attend college as well. The brain is still developing into a person’s early twenties, and heavy marijuana use can negatively impact cognitive and mental health. The five percent of college students who use marijuana on a daily basis are more likely to have poor academic performance and drop out of school. 

Adderall Addiction and Abuse in College

Adderall dependency—and associated ER visits—are on the rise. Abuse is highest among 18- to 25-year-olds who get pills without a prescription from friends and family. White college students in sororities and fraternities disproportionately use “study drugs” to enhance school performance. A survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found eleven percent of college students misused Adderall compared to eight percent of young adults who don’t attend college.

Adderall is the brand name for a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that increases norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This stimulant drug treats ADHD and narcolepsy by helping users stay focused and alert. Many college students view stimulants as harmless study aids without realizing the detrimental effects of prescription drug abuse. While stimulants give the illusion of increased mental performance, there is no evidence that it improves scores for students without ADHD. Furthermore, the drug can lead to heart problems, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, addiction, seizures, brain damage, and death.

College Drug Abuse During COVID-19

Instances of drug abuse and overdose have risen sharply during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Schools shut down across the nation leading to isolation, stress, and anxiety for many students. College-age young adults had the highest rates of anxiety and depression, according to a study conducted in June 2020. Students struggling with isolation may turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Those in recovery risk relapse. University counseling services and support groups shut down, making it harder for students to access much-needed mental health resources. Teletherapy and online resources can help students get the support they need while they are off-campus. 

How to Get Help with Addiction and Abuse in College

The sooner a person gets help, the better. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357 or seek medical attention. A healthcare provider can help with drug withdrawal and detox. 

Having the right support is a crucial part of recovery. A recovery coach like Beth Siegert can support you on your recovery journey. Schedule a free consultation today.

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