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Substance Abuse in
College Students

Substance abuse is an issue that affects people of all walks of life. Drugs and alcohol thrive in gang communities, but they are also used by high end businesspeople. Drug addiction is an issue that is common to the young, old, rich, poor and everyone in between.

One group of people that is often affected by substance abuse issues is college students. College students are known for engaging in a ‘party lifestyle’. When combined with the stress of studying and getting good grades, it’s easy to see why many abuse drugs. While these drugs may provide a temporary high, they can lead to drug addiction which ends up making matters worse.

Fortunately, there are treatment centers available where college students and other people dealing with substance abuse and mental issues can go to get help. Read on to find out more about substance abuse in college students and what you can do if you or a loved one is suffering.

Signs of Substance Abuse in College Students

If you have a friend or child in college, it’s important to look for signs of substance abuse in college students so you can address issues before it’s too late. Here are side effects to be aware of. 

Behavioral Changes:

  • Irritability 
  • Anger
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Drop in class attendance
  • Changes in appetite evidenced by weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexplained anxiety and paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Engaging in secretive behaviors
  • Using substances while driving


Physical Changes:

  • Bloodshot eyes or pinned or dilated pupils
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Lack of self-care leading to a deterioration in physical appearance
  • Unusual breath or body smells
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination

Social Changes:

  • Acting withdrawn
  • Changes in social habits such as hanging out with new people at new places
  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues
  • Problems maintaining relationships

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College Students and Substance Abuse

There are many factors that contribute to drug abuse in college students. Here are a few to consider.

Non-Stop Parties

For many college students, living in a dorm is their first experience being away from home for a considerable amount of time. They take advantage of their newfound freedom by attending the many parties thrown by fraternities and sororities where illicit drug substances flow freely. Peer pressure plays its part and students may end up getting drunk and high every night. 

While this type of lifestyle may seem like fun and games at first, it can lead to drug addiction that can get out of hand causing them to fail school and go headfirst into a downward spiral. It can hurt relationships with friends and family members, it can cause financial and legal issues, and the list goes on. 

Study Drug Issues

Some students use drugs as a study aid. They may use stimulants to help them stay awake through long nights of studying. They may turn to drugs like Adderall to boost focus and concentration. 

What they may not realize is that these drugs are addictive. If an addiction forms, their grades are likely to go down rather than up. 


For some college students, drugs and alcohol are an escape. They turn to them to relieve the stress of cramming so much into one day. They use them as a way to stop thinking of what will happen if they fail. 

While drugs may provide a short-term break from stress, they make things worse in the long run. 

Drugs may induce feelings of euphoria, but these are followed by devastating lows that make anxiety and depression worse. Once an addiction forms, it will be impossible for students to stick to any type of schedule, and they will fall behind even more. They may even have to drop out of school. 

College students are known to use a wide variety of drugs. Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances of choice. Here are some others that are in regular rotation:

  • Tranquilizers such as diazepam and alprazolam
  • Sedatives such as phenobarbital and triazolam
  • Opioids like codeine and hydrocodone
  • Stimulants like methylphenidate and amphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • Study drugs like Adderall
  • Hallucinogens like LSD, MDMA, and salvia


Statistics of Drug Abuse on College Campuses

So how bad is drug abuse in college students? provides some disturbing statistics on college student addiction in the United States. 

  • 43% of all drug users are between the ages of 19 and 28. Many people in this age group are enrolled in college.
  • 2018 statistics showed that drug abuse was highest in college students coming in at 45%. This was followed by 12th graders at 39%, 10th graders (30%) and 8th graders (13%).
  • In 2018, 44.9% of full-time college students were shown to abuse drugs.
  • Studies show that female college students were more likely to abuse drugs than their male counterparts. 45% of female students used drugs as opposed to 44.8% of males. 
  • The male college student breakdown for drug use was as follows: alcohol- 73.7%, marijuana – 42.5%, Adderall – 14.6%, cocaine – 7%, tranquilizers – 3.8%, MDMA – 7.2%, LSD – 6.8%.
  • Here’s how the female breakdown looks: alcohol – 75.1%, marijuana – 42.2%, Adderall – 8.8%, cocaine – 4.3%, tranquilizers – 3.3%, MDMA – 2.7%, LSD – 2.6%.
  • It may be interesting to find that many medical students have substance abuse issues. Here is the breakdown for those studying in the medical field. Alcohol – 91.3%, marijuana – 26.2%, tobacco – 17.3%, amphetamines – 6%, sedatives – 2.3%, cocaine – 2.3%. 
  • According to one 2018 study, college students had used an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past month.
  • An 8-year study showed that marijuana use for college students tends to peak around the third year in school. 
  • Almost 30% of students entering college have used marijuana every month.

How to Find Help for Drug Abuse on College Campuses

Dealing with a substance abuse problem isn’t easy and it can be especially difficult for college students. Some may not want to admit they have a problem. 

Others may be frightened of what will happen if they reach out for help. They may be afraid of what their families may say or what their peers might think of them. They may also realize that going to a rehab facility may cause them to take time off college and put their education on hold. 

The best course of action is to start by talking to a college professor or counselor. They will help you explore your options so you can find a solution that is suitable to your situation. They may recommend an outpatient program that allows you to focus on your studies while getting sober. They will provide discretion so you can open up to your friends and family members in a way you feel is most appropriate. 

Substance Abuse in College Students

How The Nook Can Help

There are many options when it comes to finding treatment for substance use disorders in college students, but The Nook may be your best option. 

The Nook is a men’s sober living facility located in Los Angeles, CA. Our housing is designed to help college students and professionals continue working and going to school while getting sober. Our facility is for people that can’t put their lives on hold while in recovery. 

Our facility also has affiliated drug treatment programs. These programs begin with a thorough examination. They assess each person’s mental and physical health to determine the underlying cause of addiction. Then we apply science-based treatment, that may include a combination of DBT, CBT, trauma-focused and alternative therapies to help our clients achieve overall wellness. The mission is to find healthy coping mechanisms that replace the urge to use drugs and alcohol. 

Our residence at The Nook is an upscale setting. The home is located in a spacious mansion overlooking the Bluff in West LA. Residents are within walking distance to nearby stores, the beach, and local meetings. 

The staff has extensive experience in treating a variety of dependence issues. They promote a warm environment that fosters support between members. They offer weekly and monthly community events and adventures. They also provide vocation and college support throughout recovery. 

A person may have a tough time maintaining sobriety after getting out of an addiction treatment facility. Once they return to college life, they will meet up with old friends who will invite them to parties. They will be dealing with the same stressors that caused them to use them in the first place.

The Nook staff provides ongoing support that encourages clients to stay sober after graduating from the program. Our Aftercare and & Alumni services include online meetings and in-person events give our clients the strength they need to resist the urge to abuse drugs. 

College life can get pretty wild and crazy. With all the parties and the stress, it’s no wonder why substance abuse in college students is so common. Fortunately, there are many treatment centers and support groups available to help young people overcome dependency issues. 

If you or a loved one is dealing with drug addiction or alcohol abuse and alcoholism, do not hesitate to reach out to The Nook today. We will tell you exactly what to expect from our sober living home and affiliated rehab programs. We will give you the tools you need to find wellness while continuing to pursue your professional goals. 

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