The transition from high school into college involves a lot of changes and new experiences. The college life can often be insular and devoid of oversight, which may lead to experimentation with all sorts of illicit substances. It is important to understand the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse on college campuses and what can be done to help students avoid or overcome a dangerous lifestyle.
What Substances Do Students Abuse?
College may represent the first time you’ve been away from home and lived in close proximity to others close to your age. It’s natural to want to exercise this new-found freedom by partying with friends, and colleges often look the other way when those party environments cause trouble.
Alcohol is the most prevalent substance abused on a college campus. Four out of five college students consume alcohol, and of those, half stray into the realm of binge drinking (1). Often, these bouts of binge drinking stem from peer pressure and the copious amounts of stress that college creates.
Alcohol abuse can lead to reduced academic performance, injury, mental health issues and even death, but alcohol isn’t the only substance abused by college students. Marijuana, prescription drugs and even harder drugs, like heroin or cocaine, may be used by college students each year (2).
Daily marijuana use has increased from 1.8 percent in 1994 to 5.9 percent in 2014. Designed to help people with ADHD focus, Adderall is often used by students as a mental performance-enhancing drug. Many students believe taking it will sharpen their attention and help them achieve better grades. In 2014, 9.6 percent of students used Adderall. In addition, cocaine use in 2014 rose to 4.4 percent among students.
Substance Abuse in California Colleges
While there are many large colleges in California, and those colleges no doubt have an active student life, there is little evidence that California schools are any worse than other schools across the country. Of the top ten party schools in the nation according to the Princeton Review, only the University of California – Santa Barbara made it into the rankings.
What Can Be Done to Protect College Students from Substance Abuse?
Education is an important part of helping students who may be struggling with substance abuse issues. Many college students believe they have to drink or use drugs in order to succeed or be accepted, but working to create a healthier environment can help prevent a student from sliding into substance abuse.
Colleges should work to identify those who may be at risk for substance abuse. Freshmen, athletes and fraternity or sorority pledges are often at risk for substance abuse issues. In addition, personality can also contribute to the risk for substance abuse problems. Colleges should attempt to bolster their students’ physical and mental health through proactive initiatives and open communication.
For students who struggle with substance abuse, colleges need support groups and treatment options that are open and available. A safe place to share their struggles and communicate can go a long way to helping a student overcome substance abuse.
College life can be hectic and stressful, but substance abuse can create patterns that will stay with you for a lifetime. By recognizing substance abuse issues in yourself and others, you can overcome them and live a healthier life.