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Substance abuse is prevalent among college students and can lead to a variety of mental, physical, academic, and social issues. A research study revealed that over half of college students matched the criteria for at least a single substance use disorder (SUD), whereas 2019 Monitoring the Future survey revealed the highest incidence of marijuana and some illicit drug use, especially cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, and hallucinogens among those of average college age (early to mid-20s).

Alcohol and substance abuse in college students can have far-reaching effects, including disruption of academic performance and decreased employment prospects after graduation.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), college students regularly use and abuse alcohol, with many students considering alcohol consumption as a milestone event. Nevertheless, many students arrive on campus with established drinking habits.

The most frequently abused substances by college students include:

Marijuana. Marijuana was the most popular drug on college campuses in the age group of 21-22 years in the preceding year. Marijuana vaping is most prevalent among those in their early 20s.

LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), and other hallucinogens or psychedelics. In recent years, these substances have gained prominence, with many students taking them out of curiosity, to have a psychedelic or hallucinogenic experience, or to escape.

Microdosing. It is the practice of using small amounts of hallucinogens to get a small effect. It has also become more popular among college students over the past 10 years.

Stimulant drugs. These include drugs like dextroamphetamine (Adderall) that are commonly referred to as “study drugs.” Students take study drugs to stay awake or to help them concentrate and study for tests. Adderall use in college can be very dangerous and can lead to dependence or addiction in the long run.

Cocaine. According to one study on cocaine use among college students, more than 20 percent of students had access to and the opportunity to use cocaine in the previous year.

Analgesics and opioids. In college, a substantial proportion of young adults in the age group of 18–25 years take pain pills or prescription opioids; this is also a major cause of accidental mortality and disability in this age group.

College drug use stats are often underestimated. There is a deeper connection between drug abuse and mental health problems than is generally believed in public. Even though mental illness and drug abuse are not directly linked, people often use illegal drugs to self-medicate and relieve the symptoms of undiagnosed mental health problems.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, substance addiction and depression, and anxiety are closely connected.

37 percent of alcoholics and 53 percent of drug addicts suffer from at least one major mental disease.

Symptoms associated with mental health disorders might be exacerbated or triggered by drug and alcohol use. And when taken with prescriptions such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers, substance abuse and alcohol consumption can make it more difficult to relieve symptoms.

College Students Drug Abuse Statistics

Drug use in college students statistics in 2022 and 2023 have been on the rise. The following are the results of the large-scale Monitoring The Future National Survey on Drug Use carried out in 2018:

  • In the preceding five years, college student opioid consumption reduced by 50 percent, from 5.4 to 2.7 percent.
  • 5.2 percent of college students have experimented with hallucinogens (like LSD).
  • 5.3 percent of college students are cocaine users.
  • 4.3 percent of college students are MDMA users
  • 3.5 percent of college students have utilized sedatives (like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin)

In 2018, 45 percent of students in college were illicit drug users. Other than marijuana, 18 percent of college students abused an illicit substance.

College Students Alcohol Abuse Statistics

  • 75 percent of students drink alcoholic beverages
  • 60 percent of adults report drinking in the last month
  • 38 percent report drinking alcohol within the past month.
  • In recent times, binge drinking (defined as men consuming five or more drinks or women consuming four or more drinks within two hours) has decreased steadily and is now at an all-time low.
  • 28 percent of students in college still binge drink
  • 19 to 27 percent of women and 6 to 8 percent of men are sexually abused at college, according to studies. Several of these incidents include drinking.
  • Relationships with alcoholics increase the risk of sexual assault.
  • Alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of mortality in the United States, after tobacco and poor diet/inactivity, accounting for over 80,000 fatalities annually.

Alcohol-related risky behaviors can result in negative outcomes including:

Physical injury and death — 1,825 college students between the age of 18 and 24 died from alcohol-related unintended injuries, such as automobile accidents.

Physical assault – 696,000 college students in the age group of 18-24 years are abused or assaulted by a student who has been recently drunk.

Sexual assault — 97,000 young students in the age group of 18-24 years report date rape or sexual assault associated with alcohol use.

Poor academic performance – About one-fourth of college students report academic effects of drinking, such as missing school, lagging in class, performing poorly on examinations or papers, and earning overall poorer grades.

College Students’ Marijuana Use Statistics

  • While binge drinking among college students is at an all-time low, marijuana use is at a 35-year high.
  • 43 percent of college students consume cannabis.
  • 6 percent of college students regularly use marijuana.
  • The percentage of college students who use marijuana has climbed by 7% over the past five years.
  • The prevalence of marijuana use is comparable among college and non-college students.

Statistics On Vaping And Cigarette Use In College Students

  • In 2017, 6 percent of college students were actively engaged in vaping.
  • In 2018, 16 percent of college students vaped 2018.
  • However, only 1.9 percent of college students report smoking every day.
  • The number of college students who vape has increased by 250 percent.

 In the history of the Monitoring the Future College Students and Young Adults Survey, this is one of the greatest annual rises of any substance.

Statistics on Adderall and Other Study Drug Abuse in College Students

Use of Adderall and other study drugs was stable in this survey over the past five years, averaging around 10 percent.

11.1 percent of students in college reported using Adderall in 2018.

Substance abuse is ubiquitous on college campuses and typically results in mental, physical, academic, or social problems. Substance abuse is common on college campuses, and it usually leads to problems with the mind, body, schoolwork, or social life. College students have the greatest rates of marijuana and illicit drug use, like cocaine, hallucinogens, amphetamines, and MDMA, as per the 2019 Monitoring the Future survey.

The following are the leading triggers of substance abuse on college campuses:

1. Peer influence

College gives you the chance to try out new things, meet new people, and make new memories. However, this also increases the likelihood of succumbing to peer pressure or influence. As a result of the predominance of party culture on many college campuses, students are frequently surrounded by drug users and alcoholics. To develop a sense of belonging, a student may opt to participate in group activities.

2. Social phobia or anxiety

Mingling in a new setting can induce anxiety in many students, particularly introverts. Alcohol and drug use might be viewed as a means to relax and settle anxieties, but it can result in substance abuse. As per data published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), those with anxiety are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. According to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with anxiety are more likely to have a problem with using drugs.

3. Greek life

Some college students join Greek life to meet new people and discover a sense of belonging. However, substance abuse and alcoholism can be key aspects of fitting into the Greek lifestyle on college campuses. But using drugs and drinking too much can be important parts of Greek life on college campuses. Recent research shows that both men and women who live in sorority and fraternity houses are more likely to smoke pot and drink a lot. Former members of Greek life were more likely to acquire a drinking disorder by age 35.

4. Curiosity

Commonly, college students try alcohol and drugs out of curiosity. Students are more inclined to try new activities when living independently and away from home for the first time. In conjunction with peer pressure, this might cause many students to experiment with alcohol and drugs to see how they feel or to try something different.

5. Academic achievement The burden of making new acquaintances and maintaining an active social existence is also prevalent. A lot of people also have to worry about making new friends and keeping up with their social lives. Students regularly use stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, which are known as “study drugs.” Even though a doctor prescribed these ADHD meds, some students abuse them to stay awake all night and study.

6. Overcoming mental health problems

According to the Texas Medical Association, college students with mental illness are more likely to abuse stimulants, over-the-counter drugs, and marijuana. Substance abuse is not caused by mental illness, however, some students use drugs to deal with symptoms. These substances may temporarily alleviate symptoms, but they may ultimately exacerbate them.

If you are having trouble with your mental health, you should talk to a mental health expert at a high-end residential rehab center about how to make a good plan for your mental health.

Many emerging adults in higher education reject substance addiction therapy as they do not realize they have a problem. The relationship between college students and substance abuse is stronger than commonly believed. Students frequently brush aside therapy due to the stigma attached to substance abuse.

Accepting addiction treatment demonstrates concern for your health and future. A study found that the sooner someone gets treatment for addiction, the more likely it is that they will get better for good. The majority of executive rehabs, residential rehabs, and inpatient rehabs cater to students’ requirements without interrupting their studies and academic activities.

Several of these symptoms can be avoided with medical detox. Several of these symptoms are avoidable through medical detox.

Since quitting cold turkey can be fatal, medically assisted detox in college student alcohol rehab is utilized as a vital component of treatment. The following are the average withdrawal times for several drugs:

  • Alcohol – 5-7 days
  • Cannabis – Two weeks or longer
  • Cocaine – 2-3 days
  • Tobacco – Two days to two weeks
  • Benzos – 10-14 days
  • Opioids – 1-4 weeks

Detox from opioid addiction in college students varies greatly according to the duration of use and route of administration. Opiate detoxification patients face unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. However, tolerance to opioids is lost within days of abstinence.

Overdose is a possible risk during relapse, which sadly occurs rather frequently. With the assistance of medicine in a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, relapse is preventable. College students with severe opioid dependence may benefit from initiating MAT for an extended period before attempting to go off the pills.

Some recovering addicts believe that withdrawal is the most difficult component of the process, while others believe that overcoming cravings following detox is the most demanding.

Behavioral Treatment

College students with behavioral and psychological issues that may have caused their addictions can be treated with psychotherapy and counseling. Counselors and therapists at high-end residential and inpatient rehabs can help college students understand how to manage drug cravings and the obstacles that may lead to drug use.

Most college students have co-occurring disorders that have led to substance abuse. Treatment of underlying mental health problems is essential for a successful recovery from addiction in college students.

Common co-occurring disorders encountered by students include:

  • Eating disorders.
  • Depressive disorders.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Anxiety.

Most institutes of higher education have mental health consultants on campus. These counselors assist students in coping while maintaining their privacy. The comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment programs at luxury rehabs with high-end treatments address co-occurring mental health issues.

Outpatient Rehab Vs. Inpatient Rehab

Generally, college students who have become addicted to drugs need the assistance of a residential or inpatient rehabilitation center to recover. Several inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment facilities can assist college students in achieving sobriety without interfering with their academic pursuits.

Inpatient treatment facilities offer a distraction-free setting away from urges, desires, or temptations on campus. Rehabilitated college students improve their academics and overall health. The proximity of many inpatient rehabilitation institutions to college campuses allows residents to attend classes throughout the day.

Outpatient rehab is an appropriate treatment of choice for college students with milder addictions. These outpatient programs provide medication for withdrawal and counseling without interfering with the student’s normal activities. Support groups and mental health counselors can aid in overcoming addictions psychologically.

  1. 75 college drug abuse statistics: 2021/2023 data, Facts & Predictions. Research.com. Available at: https://research.com/education/college-drug-abuse-statistics.
  2. Rehab For College Students, Pathfinders Recovery Center. Available at: https://pathfindersaz.com/rehab-for-college-students.
  3. Statistics and signs of substance abuse in college students, TimelyMD. Available at: https://timely.md/blog/substance-abuse-in-college-students.
  4. Substance misuse in college students, Psychiatric Times. MJH Life Sciences. Available at: https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/substance-misuse-in-college-students.
  5. Substance abuse in college students: Statistics & Rehab treatment. American Addiction Centers. Available at: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/college.

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