Treatment Resources for College Students

College students are under a great deal of pressure to perform well and keep up with all their activities. If you’re a student in crisis due to your substance abuse, you don’t have to feel alone. There are multiple treatment resources, a few of which are available at Coastal Detox, for college students that can give you the help you need to reach sobriety.

substance abuse in college students

Substance Abuse in College Students

Substance abuse in college students is quite common. Young people have busy schedules that they feel constantly obliged to be part of. If they can’t keep up with all their responsibilities, they may feel like failures or think their families will feel that way, too. When they are stressed out with school, they may feel the need to take the edge off with substances like alcohol or prescription pills. Club drugs are also commonly abused. However, substance abuse can cause several problems in college students, including:

Why Do College Students Abuse Drugs?

College students abuse drugs for a few reasons.

Facts and Statistics on College Drug Abuse

The reality is that college students are one of the largest groups of drug abusers in the world. Students enrolled in a full-time university program are twice as likely to abuse substances as people who don’t go to college. Here are a few statistics on substance abuse in college students from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

Popular Drugs Abused by College Students

There are a select few drugs that have consistently contributed to substance abuse in college students for many years. It is also common for college students to mix substances to achieve a different effect.


Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs abused by college students. Marijuana, which can be smoked or eaten through edibles, causes relaxation, slowed body movement, an altered state of mind and a large appetite. However, ingesting marijuana can also cause paranoia, dry mouth, hallucinations and nausea. If abused, marijuana can cause several health problems, which include respiratory infections and chronic coughing. 

Study Aids/Prescription Meds

Study aids like Adderall and Ritalin have become increasingly popular among college students over the past decade. These are stimulants that speed up brain activity and help you concentrate. Although Adderall is beneficial for students who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, it is abused by many students who don’t have these conditions. Most college students who have used Adderall have gotten it from a friend.

Another prescription medication that is popularly abused by college students is Xanax. This drug is a benzodiazepine, or “benzo,” which is a sedative. This calms users down and is prescribed to treat anxiety. It’s effective in treating people with anxiety disorders; however, people without anxiety like to abuse it for its relaxing properties. It can help students take the edge off from schoolwork. 


MDMA, also known as ecstasy or “molly,” has been a popular party drug for years. It produces feelings of euphoria, relaxation and heightened emotions, and it is usually taken at clubs and festivals. College students tend to take ecstasy to feel good and relieve the pressures of college life. They may feel like taking a small amount is fine, but abusing it can lead to a serious substance use disorder.


Like Adderall and Ritalin, cocaine is a stimulant, but it’s more of a party drug than a study aid. Cocaine users will feel more alert and talkative. Cocaine comes in a powder that’s usually snorted, but it can also be rubbed on the gums or injected in a liquid form. Cocaine affects the brain’s reward center, leading to a possibility for addiction.

College Students and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol has been abused by college students for generations. Films like “Animal House,” “Old School” and “Spring Breakers” have glorified drinking in college and have also made it an acceptable part of college life. Almost 19 million people aged 18 to 25 drank alcohol in the last month.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a whole other level of alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in two hours. The same movies mentioned previously also make binge drinking out to be a fun activity on which you shouldn’t miss out. While people in other countries drink alcohol, binge drinking has become especially popular in the U.S. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that in the past month, about 11.9 million young adults binge drank.

Binge drinking can cause several health problems in college students, including alcohol use disorder, liver failure, kidney failure, and even death from alcohol poisoning. 

College Students and Mental Health

Mental health has become a large concern for college students. Moving away from home for the first time, having a large course load and trying to make new friends can all take a toll on their mental health. They can end up developing mental health disorders, which may lead them to abuse substances to feel better. Mental health disorders commonly develop in a person’s 20s. About 8.9 million young adults had a mental illness in the past year.


Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses among young adults and the general population. Depression involves a lack of interest in everyday activities, and it can negatively affect how a student performs in school. However, this can be managed with meditation, mindfulness, and medication.


Anxiety disorders are also frequently seen in college students. They may have stemmed from childhood, and they can increase as people get older. If you feel like you have an anxiety disorder, you should speak to a doctor at your student health center on campus. Like depression, anxiety is manageable with medication and mindfulness techniques.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are common among college students. About 13.2 percent of girls will have suffered from an eating disorder by age 20. If there is pressure to look a certain way, students may feel like they need to restrict what they eat or end up having a negative body image. Anorexia and bulimia can be devastating to your body, so if you feel like you may be developing an eating disorder, get help while you still have time.

Greek Life: Hazing and Mental Health

Some college students end up taking part in Greek life and join fraternities or sororities. Although these can be good opportunities to make new friends and get involved on campus, these organizations can promote college hazing, which consists of humiliating rituals that are part of an initiation program. College hazing can be detrimental to your mental health, and it may even drive you to abuse substances. 

Preventing Substance Abuse in College

Substance abuse in college students can be easy when there are so many different drug sources around. However, you don’t have to do drugs or drink to have fun while in school. There are plenty of activities you can do and actions you can take that can help you stay sober:

Treatment Options for Students

There are many resources college students can utilize at their schools and in the surrounding community, as well as alcohol programs for college students:

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