Entering college can be both exciting and scary — you’ll probably be living away from home for the first time, you may get a part-time job and you’ll likely have to make new friends. It can be a lot of pressure. Dealing with difficult classes in addition to all the changes you might experience when entering college, could be overwhelming. New friends may also allow for new experiences, like experimenting with drugs and alcohol, to take place. Stress and partying were the top two reasons why college students misused drugs according to a survey recently conducted by The Recovery Village. Of the 400 participants in the survey, 39 percent believed that college students misused drugs to have fun and 35 percent said they believed college students misused drugs to deal with stress.

In movies and television shows, you often see depictions of non-stop partying and college-aged students engaging in dangerous behavior. Unfortunately the stereotypes and clichés are often reality. The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism reported statistics regarding drinking in college. Some of those statistics included:

  • 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol
  • Approximately 2,000 college students die annually because of alcohol
  • Close to 600,000 college students are injured while intoxicated or as a result of another person’s intoxication.
  • Nearly 700,000 college students are assaulted by a student who has been drinking alcohol

Because college is probably the first time you’re going to be away from your parents, you may rely more heavily on friends that you make for support and as a result feel like you have to impress them. In fact, according to a study conducted by NYU Steinhardt Department of Psychology a high drinking rate in college was directly related to forming new peer groups.

Choosing to stay sober in college may seem difficult but it’s completely possible to hang out with your new friends at parties without misusing any substances. Even if you’re confident in your decision not to misuse drugs or alcohol right now, it can be quite different in the moment at a party when your crush is offering you a drink or other substance. Most of the time a simple, “No thanks,” may be enough, but sometimes it’s not. The situation can become intense, but knowing other subtle ways you can politely refuse to misuse drugs and alcohol may include:

  • Offer to be the designated driver. You’ll be making sure your friends get home safely and it’s an excuse to not join them in drinking or misusing drugs.
  • Keep a bottled drink like soda with you to drink at parties. If you are already drinking something, people may be less likely to offer you alcohol or drugs.
  • Do something other than standing around. You can talk to other people or get up and dance. If you already look like you’re having fun, people may be less likely to pressure you into drinking alcohol.

Many new college students feel that they have to misuse drugs and alcohol because that’s what expected of them. Other students may feel that they have nothing else to do and that’s why they participate in drinking and misusing drugs. However, you can still have fun in college without drinking and misusing drugs. Some ways that you can have fun without alcohol or drugs can include:

  • Throwing sober parties. You can invite friends over to watch movies or TV shows, to dance, talk or even take time to be creative and paint or craft together.
  • Exploring the town. You can go with friends or by yourself to explore the city or if you’re in a more rural area  you can go hiking and explore nature. Keeping active and exploring parts of the city you’ve never seen before can expand your mind and be refreshing when you discover something new.
  • Dining out. Food can always bring people together and who doesn’t love going out to eat? You can go to restaurants that don’t serve alcohol or coffee shops to catch up and have fun with friends.
  • Experiencing the arts. You can go to the movies, concert, or local museums with friends. Colleges often have free concerts and movie showing so it’s a great way to have sober fun.

These are only a few suggestions, there are a lot of fun and sober activities that you can participate in. Fun can happen anywhere and it often has to do with the type of people you surround yourself with. You can likely find friends who have similar feelings about partying or at least understand why you don’t want to be involved with drugs or alcohol.

If you or someone you know struggles with a substance use disorder, recovery is possible. Call and speak to a representative at The Recovery Village to learn more about treatment options that can work for you. The call is free, confidential and there is no obligation to enroll.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.