College Student Substance Abuse

For most young adults, college is a time for exploration and getting to know oneself. While this change can be adventurous, it can also lead to risky behaviors. College students constitute one of the largest groups of drug abusers worldwide. 

Young adults between 18 and 24 years are at increased risk of drug and alcohol addiction, negatively impacting their quality of life and lowering their academic performance. Enhance Health Group in Orange County, California, offers substance abuse treatment for college students. Whether virtual or in person, treatment can help with finding long-lasting recovery.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the harmful pattern of using psychoactive substances such as illegal drugs and alcohol. While substance abuse is not the same as addiction, individuals can become addicted after long-term substance use. 

The following are the main symptoms of substance abuse according to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 manual:

The symptoms of substance use disorder are similar to other psychiatric conditions. It is, therefore, essential to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis.

Most Commonly Abused Drugs by College Students

As mentioned, college is one of the most common places for drug sale, use, and abuse. Although students use different drugs frequently, the following are the top five most abused drugs on college campuses:

1. Alcohol

It is no surprise that alcohol is the most abused drug in college. Most students start drinking at college parties. Over time, occasional drinking turns into binge drinking, which puts students at a heightened risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcohol abuse leads to academic problems and a high rate of school dropout.

2. Marijuana

Every year, the use of marijuana among college students keeps increasing. Approximately 50% of college students have used marijuana at least once. Moreover, there is no doubt that marijuana has become easier to access in the past years, given its legalization in various states. But even with its legalization, the effects of marijuana on young adults cannot be ignored because their brains are still developing.

3. Prescription Pills

As much as college life is fun, it also comes with much academic pressure. Students often find it challenging to focus in class and complete their assignments. As a result, prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, popularly known as “study drugs,” have become very common on college campuses. These drugs are often used during exams to help students block out mental and physical distractions, making studying easier.

4. Cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug and is prohibited in the United States. College students love cocaine because it adds to the party’s fun despite being costly compared to other drugs. However, it can have detrimental effects on the brain with continual use and completely ruin a student’s life.

5. Ecstasy

Ecstasy is the most common drug of choice at festivals and raves. Over the years, taking ecstasy during college raves has become as easy and normal as taking alcohol in a club. However, the effects can be very intense, as it can leave many users feeling extremely depressed after use.

Alcoholism in College Students

Alcoholism affects millions of college students in the United States. While some students confess to taking alcohol before college, for most, college is the perfect time to experiment with their newfound independence. Most of these students participate in binge drinking, which is consuming over-indulging in alcohol intake in a short time to get drunk.

Alcoholism is prevalent in colleges with sororities, fraternities, and high-profile sporting events. 

The following are some dangers of binge drinking among college students:

Causes of Substance Abuse in College Students

The increase in the rate of substance abuse among college students can be attributed to several factors, for example:


College is a time for students to explore the world and their body limits. Therefore, it is not uncommon for such eagerness to lead to drug exploration.


 Besides having fun, college life can take a toll on many students because, in addition to tons of class work, students have to take part-time jobs, enroll in internships, and fulfill their social obligations. What is more, they may be constantly worried about life after school. These pressures, and many more, may make them turn to drugs to help them cope.

Peer Pressure

College students who hang around party-loving peers will be highly tempted to try the substances.

Availability of the Drugs

Purchasing drugs on campus is straightforward. Students can buy their drug of choice at any time of the day or night, which can easily lead to substance abuse and addiction.

College Student Substance Abuse Treatment in Orange County

Substance abuse can harm every aspect of a student’s life. It can hurt not only them but also the people around them. Early intervention is essential to aid in preventing or treating substance abuse and, or dependence among college students.

If you are a college student or know anyone struggling with substance abuse, reach out to Enhance Health Group today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our addiction treatment program. Customized treatment plans can be developed based on individual needs and diagnoses.