College can be a wonderful experience for students, both academically and socially. It is an opportunity for young people to explore new ideas and information in pursuit of a rewarding career. They can interact with people from different areas and backgrounds as they explore a greater portion of the world around them.
College is also the first time many students are away from home and managing their own daily environment. The transition to making all of their own decisions can be bumpy for some students. Drugs and alcohol are often part of the newness of the college experience and can represent an opportunity to make some unfortunate decisions.
Drug Abuse Statistics in College Students
It may be difficult for parents to know what is happening on their child’s college campus. College students are usually away from home and may take the opportunity to be more independent.
These statistics provide some insight to the reality of drug abuse on college campuses:
- The rate of alcohol and drug abuse on college campuses has remained fairly consistent since the 1970s.
- Binge drinking and intoxication are more prevalent among college students than their non-college peers. More than 40% of college students surveyed admitted to being intoxicated in the past month, compared to just over 30% of non-college student young adults.
- Ritalin and Adderall, two amphetamines, are abused at a rate of 2.4% and 9.9% respectively on college campuses.
- Marijuana use has increased among college students from 2.4% in 1996 to 4.9% in 2016.
- Cocaine use among college students dropped from 2007 to 2013, but it spiked after that. In 2015, approximately 4.3% of college students admitted to using cocaine.
- Approximately one-quarter of college students use hookah, a means of vaporizing tobacco. College students smoke cigarettes at a rate of 11.3% and e-cigarettes 8.8%. This adds up to almost half of college students using nicotine.
Drug abuse among college students is generally higher than it is among their non-college peers. College represents an opportunity to experience new things, and unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are among the new experiences for many college students.
Why Are These Numbers Increasing?
One of the leading causes of the increase in drug and alcohol use in college students is availability. This is the same reason that marijuana use is so prevalent among teenagers. It is inexpensive and easy to find in most communities. It is also sometimes laced with dangerous additives.
Additionally, the overall increase in the abuse of prescription drugs leads to an increased demand for cocaine and heroin. Both of these illicit drugs are now readily available in most communities as well, especially around college campuses, and they are often cheaper than prescription drugs.
Another cause of increased drug use in college students is the perception that it is okay. Many college students believe that drugs such as marijuana, or even prescription and over-the-counter medicines, are not dangerous. A lot of people believe that if you can buy a drug legally without a prescription, it is safe.
The reality is that addiction can happen to anyone with any substance. Alcohol, for example, is a legally obtained substance that can cause addiction and even brain damage. Self-medicating or recreational use of any substance can be a dangerous practice.
Signs of Drug Abuse in College Students
It may be more difficult to recognize the signs of drug abuse in your child now that she is away at college. Look for these signs, though, and try to pick up on a problem before it becomes too serious:
- Severe change in academic performance
- Ignoring old friends for a new group of friends
- Secretive and anti-social behavior
- Unusual irritability or depression
- Lack of interest in classes or extracurricular activities that were once important
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Keep the lines of communication open while she is away at college and listen for changes that might indicate trouble.
Drug Addiction Treatment for College Students
College students are especially vulnerable to addiction because they are facing the world on their own for the first time, and their brains are not fully developed. The period of adolescent brain development continues to about age 25 in most people. Even if your child seems mature for her age, her brain is still impressionable and has not fully matured past the thrill-seeking, risk-taking decision-making habits of the teenage years.
If you think your college student is struggling with addiction or drug abuse, it is a good idea to get help for her right away. Taking some time out and away from the college scene might be the best avenue if out-patient treatment and therapy are not enough. Drug abuse turns to addiction quickly, and addiction does not heal itself. Consult the compassionate professionals at Brookhaven Retreat for the next steps if think your daughter might be abusing drugs at college.