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Resources for College Students

Substance abuse in college students is increasingly common but highly dangerous. College students use different drugs, including alcohol, for a variety of reasons and substance abuse permeates almost every aspect of the college experience. Some young adults may use stimulant drugs to study, others may overindulge in alcohol on the weekends and student athletes may misuse steroids or prescription drugs to improve performance.  Students involved in Greek life may be more prone to substance abuse as well. Regardless of why college-age adults use drugs or alcohol, the consequences of substance abuse can be grim.

College Students and Drug Abuse

Both female and male college-age adults misuse prescription medications, illicit drugs and alcohol for various reasons. Students engage in drug use in college to cope with stress, improve their focus, relieve pain or have fun. However, college substance abuse can negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health, by increasing their risk of:

Facts and Statistics on College Drug Abuse

According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), drug and alcohol use among college students is a problematic trend at universities across the country. In measuring drug abuse in college students, statistics show that illicit and prescription drug use is on the rise among college-age individuals.

College Drug Use Statistics

Results from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that college-age (ages 18–25) adults engaged in many different types of substance use in 2017. Among individuals in this age group:

  • Nearly 2 in 5 young adults smoked cigarettes
  • Almost 57 percent of young adults drank alcohol, and almost 37 percent of them binge drank regularly
  • An estimated 1.8 percent of college-age people misused pain-relieving drugs
  • Almost 2.5 million young adults misused opioids
  • Approximately 24 percent of young adults used illicit drugs
  • An estimated 5.1 million young adults met the criteria for a substance use disorder

What Drugs Are College Students Abusing?

According to recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of college students who misuse drugs choose prescription drugs like Adderall, drink alcohol, use nicotine and ingest illicit substances like marijuana. Some students misuse multiple substances simultaneously and may mix prescription drugs and alcohol or smoke marijuana while drinking.


Cannabis, commonly called marijuana or weed, is one of the most widely used drugs on college campuses across America. College students often smoke this drug or incorporate cannabis extracts into edibles, or baked goods and candy. Marijuana can produce a euphoric high, and different strains of the drug have psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties. Facts about marijuana use during college include:

  • In 2015, almost 5 percent of college students used marijuana daily
  • About 1 in 5 young adults (ages 18–25) used marijuana regularly in 2017
  • Of college-age adults, only 12 percent perceive a great risk from smoking marijuana monthly
  • Approximately 1.8 million college-age adults met the criteria for a marijuana use disorder in 2017

Although marijuana may not be as dangerous as some illicit drugs, occasional marijuana use (like smoking on April 20) can become problematic and can worsen a student’s anxiety. Continuous use of this drug can lead to addiction. To get help for a marijuana use disorder, call the toll-free and confidential marijuana hotline.


Cocaine is a popular party drug on many college campuses, but the risks associated with cocaine use are not worth its energizing effects. College students may choose to snort or inject the white powdered drug, or smoke crack cocaine, to have increased energy or to feel more productive. Cocaine on its own can be extremely dangerous, but it can be deadly if mixed with other drugs that are common on college campuses, like Adderall or marijuana.

According to 2017 data, statistics on cocaine use among college-age (ages 18–25) adults included:

  • An estimated 665,000 individuals, or 1.9 percent of all young adults, who used cocaine
  • Approximately 24,000 young adults who used crack cocaine
  • Almost 243,000 young adults who had a cocaine use disorder

Cocaine can damage a person’s physical and mental health and even affect their future employment. Given these long-lasting consequences, cocaine addiction treatment may be life-saving for someone who struggles with this disease.

Study Aids

To increase their ability to concentrate, college students frequently misuse prescription stimulants, most of which are amphetamine drugs. Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are often prescribed to manage hyperactivity disorders, severe depression and sleep disturbances. However, many students use these substances as study aids, which is illegal without a prescription and potentially harmful.

Because stimulant pills can temporarily promote wakefulness and boost a person’s ability to focus, stimulants are popular choices among college students. Using Adderall to study is an increasingly common phenomenon on college campuses, and all manner of stimulant drugs are used by students who want to want to study longer, faster or more intently than they normally do.

Stimulants that are frequently used as study aids include:

These and other stimulants are commonly misused among young adults (ages 18–25). In fact, in 2017, almost 715,000 young adults misused stimulant drugs and approximately 187,000 young people met the criteria for a stimulant use disorder.

Stimulant use disorders involving study-aid drugs may require professional treatment. To learn more, call The Recovery Village amphetamine hotline to speak with someone who can help.


The drug MDMA, which is commonly called ecstasy or molly, is an illicit stimulant drug. Ecstasy tablets and pills are psychoactive drugs that activate a release of serotonin in the brain, which boosts feelings of happiness and excitement and can heightens a person’s emotional sensitivity. Although ecstasy is not seen as a dangerous club drug among college students, its use can lead to a substance use disorder.

To learn more about how college students use stimulants like ecstasy, read The Recovery Village’s resource pages regarding:

Representatives on The Recovery Village’s ecstasy hotline are available to answer questions about ecstasy use and rehab options.


Xanax is a popular type of benzodiazepine pill which may be prescribed to relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax works to create a sense of calm and sedation in the body, slowing down a person’s heart rate and breathing. College students may take Xanax to cope with overwhelming stress or anxiety, but this benzodiazepine is highly addictive, and continued use of it can lead to a Xanax use disorder.

College students and their loved ones can learn more about Xanax use and addiction through resources from The Recovery Village, including:

Additionally, to locate effective treatment programs for Xanax addiction, college students can call The Recovery Village’s Xanax hotline.

College Students and Alcohol Abuse

Drinking alcohol and getting drunk are almost synonymous with American college culture. However, excessive alcohol use in college can have serious consequences for the students who drink, and everyone around them.

Alcohol abuse facts associated with drinking in college include:

  • Almost 1 in 4 students report academic repercussions from drinking, including missing classes and receiving poor grades
  • Studies show that each year, 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related injuries
  • Approximately 696,000 students are assaulted by a drunken peer each year
  • An estimated 3.4 million college-age (ages 18–25) adults met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder in 2017. This figure represents 10 percent of all young adults.

Problematic alcohol use in college, like heavy drinking and binge drinking, can mean short-term ailments and long-term negative health effects, including the development of an alcohol use disorder, which may require professional treatment to heal from. With centers across the country, The Recovery Village offers treatment options for adults and college students who face alcohol addiction and other drug use disorders.

Binge Drinking

Many people, including college students, may misunderstand the difference between normal drinking behaviors and binge drinking. In answer to, “What is binge drinking?” a straightforward binge drinking definition differs for women and men. For women, binge drinking means consuming four or more standard drinks within two hours. For men, having five or more drinks in two hours is considered binge drinking.

Among college-age adults, or people between the ages of 18 and 25, binge drinking is a common issue. Students may binge drink at parties, sporting events and on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. However, this behavior can have immediate repercussions, like bodily injury from a car crash, and long-term consequences, like liver disease and alcohol addiction.

College Students and Mental Health

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), almost 75 percent of all lifelong mental illnesses begin by a person’s mid-twenties, a time when many young people are attending a university. College can be stressful and anxiety-inducing time for young adults, and sadly, mental illnesses are common among students. In 2017, an estimated 8.8 million young adults ages 18–25 struggled with a mental illness. Some of these psychological conditions that college students struggle with include anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and eating disorders.


The single most common mental health condition in America, anxiety disorders affect almost 40 million adults each year, including college students. On college campuses, between 40 and 60 percent of students struggle with anxiety as they face stressful classes and social pressures. This condition is characterized by mental and physical side effects like racing thoughts, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping and an inability to concentrate. However, anxiety can be managed at any age, and there are a variety of helpful resources to do so, including an anxiety crisis kit.    


Major depressive disorder is an extremely common mental illness in America, and depression contributes to numerous suicide deaths among celebrities each year. This condition affects more than 16 million adults each year, and is the leading cause of disability among Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. Among college-age adults, approximately 4.4 million adults struggled with a major depressive episode in 2017.

For people who face a major depressive episode, daily activities can be overwhelming and changes in mood and behavior can impair their ability to study, work or maintain their regular responsibilities. Given the often stressful environment of college and the prevalence of major depressive disorder, it’s important for college students to be screened for depression and to be vigilant of depression symptoms in people they love.

Eating Disorders

According to research from 2016, eating disorders are responsible for the death of one person every 62 minutes in America. This figure accounts for eating disorders in college students, which can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. These conditions are not only widespread, but are also commonly misunderstood and dismissed as not serious.

Eating disorders can be mentally and physically devastating, and college students should be aware of the signs and symptoms of common eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Although they are harmful diseases, eating disorders are highly treatable. Eating disorder treatment is offered at several locations of The Recovery Village, and representatives on the eating disorder hotline are available to answer questions and guide people toward effective rehab programs.

Preventing Substance Abuse in College

In preparing for college, few students plan for how they’ll handle drug or alcohol use, but this kind of planning may be necessary, given the rise of substance use disorders among college students.

Many universities aim to help young adults lower their risk of developing substance use disorders through substance abuse prevention programs for college students. These programs may focus on maintaining physical and mental health despite the challenges of college life. forming healthy coping mechanisms, getting involved in campus activities and forming healthy friendships. Substance abuse prevention tactics for college students can include:

Treatment Options for Students

If you struggle with a substance use disorder, there are a variety of drug and alcohol programs for college students, including comprehensive treatment programs offered through The Recovery Village.

However, before you enroll in treatment, speak with a counselor or medical professional to discuss your situation.

  • Speak with campus health center physicians: Substance use disorders deserve medical attention. If you do not have a primary care physician, make an appointment.
  • Take advantage of on-campus mental health counseling: Many colleges free offer counseling and psychological services for students. Given that counseling sessions at private practices can be expensive, it’s worthwhile to check if your university offers free or discounted therapy options.
  • Talk with a trained counselor on a hotline: Most national drug abuse hotlines are toll-free, confidential and available during the day and night. Representatives on these hotlines can answer your questions about substance abuse and may be able to guide you toward affordable treatment options.
  • Find local chapters of national support groups: Groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous are open to anyone who wants to stop using drugs or alcohol. In these group meetings, participants offer advice and support to each other.

When you’re ready to begin treatment, you can find drug and alcohol programs for college students in several ways.

  • Use the SAMHSA treatment services locator: With this interactive map, you can narrow down rehab facilities by city, programs offered and specific treatments available.
  • Call The Recovery Village: If you struggle with addiction, professional treatment can empower you to maintain long-term healing. The Recovery Village offers a variety of drug and alcohol programs for college students and adults alike. Rehab programs range from medical detox to inpatient and outpatient care to help you overcome addiction. Additionally, individual and group therapy for co-occurring mental health conditions is included in each program at every facility across the country.