5 Most commonly abuse drugs on college campuses - QuitOpioids.com


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5 Most commonly abuse drugs on college campuses

5 Most commonly abuse drugs on college campuses

College is a time of freedom and self-discovery. For many students, it is their first time away from parents and their first exposure to socially accepted drinking. It is also a time of academic and social pressure, making students especially vulnerable to the temptations of substance use.

In 2018, NBC News reported that colleges were creating drug recovery programs for students to help them stop drinking. These programs include alcohol-free dorms and activities as well as counseling and peer support. They also emphasize the importance of education on the topic for students, parents and college personnel.

Why Do College Students Turn to Drugs or Alcohol?

Young people who participate in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse alcohol as those who are not in college. Contributing factors include the following:

  • Stress
  • Social pressure
  • Demanding schedules
  • Performance anxiety
  • Self-exploration

Young people take drugs to have fun, to relax, to fit in with their friends and to ease the pressure that college demands of their personal and academic lives. Some students use substances so that they can stay awake to cram for tests, and others find that it makes it easier for them to make friends. Sometimes, the process is a gradual one. At other times, it starts with partying and bingeing but soon leads to an inability to stop drinking or using.

The Five Most Commonly Abused Drugs on College Campuses


Drinking is a widely accepted ritual among college students, but it takes a toll on their physical and mental wellness, not to mention their social lives and academic achievement. Students who drink are at risk for chronic health and emotional problems later in life.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism distinguishes between binge drinking and heavy alcohol use. The organization defines binge drinking as the consumption of an excessive amount of drinking that takes place within two hours and raises the blood alcohol level to .08 or higher, the point at which driving becomes illegal in most states. For women, this means four or more drinks in two hours while men can usually drink five or more in two hours.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration classifies heavy use as binge drinking that takes place more than five days per month. Binge drinkers don’t necessarily drink every day, but the amount they drink still poses a problem.

Drinking too much and drinking too often are both harmful. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning or death, and drinking too often contributes to dependence, addiction or liver damage. People who drink from a young age are more likely to wrestle with substance use problems later in life as well as suffer from the physical effects of alcohol.

Underage drinking takes its toll on the entire community. Statistics from the NIAAA show that over 1,800 college students between 18 and 24 years of age die from accidental alcohol-related injuries every year. Almost 700,000 students of the same age group are assaulted by an intoxicated classmate, and close to 100,000 students in the same age group report being a victim of date rape or sexual assault.


In 2018, Inside Higher Education reported that the use of marijuana by college students had reached “an all-time high.” In a study called “Monitoring the Future,” the University of Michigan indicated that 21 percent of full-time college students self-reported using marijuana within the previous 30 days.

Another 38 percent said they used it one or more times within the previous year. Over 4 percent said they used it almost every day or 20 times in one month. John Schulenberg, who led the study in 2017, found the statistics alarming because the use of the drug can affect mental health and cognitive ability. Researchers also reported that students in 2017 believed marijuana to be less harmful than students in previous years.

Negative outcomes of marijuana use include academic failure, poor memory and respiratory illnesses. The website for Campus Drug Prevention, a government organization, also says that around 9 percent of users will become dependent if the use of marijuana starts in adulthood. For those who start early, the risk of being dependent increases to 17 percent.

Prescription Medications

Academic endeavors can be challenging, and students often turn to prescription stimulants to help them pull all-nighters or focus on assignments. In 2016, Science Daily reported on a study completed at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the study, researchers found that prescriptions for stimulants among young adults had not increased, but visits to the emergency room had, implying that pills came from friends, family or illicit sources. Around 60 percent of users who required care and used stimulants for nonmedical use were between the ages of 18 and 25, dispelling the myth that stimulants are a greater problem for high school students than those in college.

Stimulants fall into several categories, but one mixture is used more often than others. Commonly known by the brand name Adderall, the drug is prescribed by doctors for people who have conditions like attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, but it is widely used by many who do not have a medical diagnosis. Side effects, especially when misused, include cardiovascular issues and mental health problems as well as hostile or aggressive behavior.

Signs of illicit stimulant use include dilated pupils, agitation, loss of appetite, weight loss, sweating, and hyperactivity. Withdrawal can be intense and may result in severe depression and thoughts of suicide as well as other mental, physical and emotional problems. The severity and length of detox and withdrawal vary depending on the type of stimulant, the individual taking the medication and the amount taken.


The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention provides a four-page fact sheet explaining what ecstasy is and how it affects its users. Among the information provided is the following:

Ecstasy, or “molly,” was first developed in a German lab in 1912 and declared illegal in the United States in 1985. It usually comes in capsule or pill form but may also be sold as a powder. On college campuses, it quickly developed a reputation as a party drug that is often seen in gathering places like concerts, bars, and other large venues. Ecstasy parties are sometimes called raves.

A 2006 study found that college students who used ecstasy were more likely to have used other drugs, such as LSD, cocaine, inhalants, and heroin, during the same year they used ecstasy. The drug can be deadly, especially when it is combined with other drugs or when users are in overcrowded, overheated settings. Its use may also lead to other risky behaviors.

Ecstasy provides a burst of well-being or euphoria that fades into feelings of confusion, depression, and insomnia. Users develop cravings and dependency, which lead to a need for bigger or more frequent doses. While long-term effects on health and welfare need more study, the presence on the market of ecstasy laced with unknown ingredients poses a risk to users, and dealers sometimes sell counterfeit drugs instead of the real thing. In other words, most people don’t know exactly what they are taking when they consume the party drug.

Because ecstasy alters mood and awareness, it can create feelings of intense pleasure, raise energy levels and give users a euphoric sense of well-being. It has similarities to both stimulants and hallucinogens in that it increases the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain and lasts around three to five hours. Although ecstasy is not as addictive as cocaine, users report withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, depression, loss of appetite and inability to focus. Addiction treatment usually involves behavioral therapy.


Cocaine is a highly addictive and illegal drug that can be snorted, inhaled or injected. Known for its ability to create feelings of euphoria, it may also cause agitation or lack of touch with reality. Effects start almost immediately and last up to 90 minutes. Because cocaine affects the brain’s reward system, dependence occurs quickly. Users face a high risk of death from conditions like strokes, heart attacks, and blood infections.

In a 2010 study of over 1,200 college students, researchers at the University of Maryland found that 36 percent of the students had been offered cocaine while 13 percent had already tried the drug. Usage increased from 4 percent during their freshman year to 10 percent during their senior year. College administrators and others were advised to become aware of the problem and work to prevent its spread.

How Can College Students Find Help?

If you or someone you know needs treatment to stop drinking or taking drugs, there is help. From alcohol detox to withdrawal from medications, a variety of different programs offer hope for recovery. Every person has an individual set of circumstances that require a selection of targeted components for recovery.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to addiction. Students not lucky enough to attend a college that provides the help they need can still find a treatment plan that works. Recovery may include behavioral therapy, medication or both. Because addictions usually involve long-term issues, treatment may include different levels of therapy ranging from alcohol detox to group therapy for cocaine addiction.

Medications used in recovery include options that range from nicotine lozenges and patches for smokers to medications for alcohol dependence. Treatments for drug use are similar for illegal and prescription drugs. They usually involve other medications that affect the same reward systems in the brain as illegal substances but are less likely to cause addiction. There is, however, no medication alternative for cocaine.

Behavioral programs offer motivation, coping strategies for dealing with cravings and education on ways to avoid or deal with relapse. Behavioral changes can also make it easier to deal with relationships, family and social obligations. Many people find group therapy helpful because it provides support, a sense of community and an opportunity to share with like-minded people.

Most recovery plans use a combination of medication and behavioral strategies, and many target co-existing issues that contribute to the addiction. These problems may include physical conditions like chronic pain or mental issues like depression. The relapse rate from addiction is similar to that of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, that requires ongoing care.

For college students especially, finding the right recovery program means the difference between a promising new future and a life filled with addiction. For more information about drug use among adolescents and young people, the National Institute on Drug Abuse supplies statistics as well as helpful resources to find treatment.

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