Substance Abuse on College Campuses

Substance Abuse College - Freedom From Addiction

The college lifestyle is often summed up with coursework, challenging professors, and campus parties. College parties are renowned for excessive drinking and in some cases drug use. The life of a new college student can be stressful and overwhelming. Although everyone experiences stress differently, some of the common causes for college students are:

  • Living independently (no parental support for daily living)
  • Commuting to and from campus
  • Challenges with living with new roommates
  • Adjusting to new state or environment
  • Demanding coursework
  • Exams
  • Financial demands such as tuition, rent, books, and other college fees
  • Competitive grade point average
  • Family challenges that arise while student is away from home
  • Work
  • Social Life (fitting in)
  • Dating/Romantic relationships

As a result, some college students may experience high levels of stress. Stress can manifest in several ways including emotionally, physically, behaviorally, and cognitively. Some potential signs of emotional stress include increased irritability, a sense of hopelessness, feeling of negativity, and isolation. Physical signs of stress can include headaches, stomach aches, feeling tired, muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. Cognitive stress can manifest in an individual having difficulty concentrating, and memory loss which can make daily living and overall function more difficult. As a result, students can experience behavioral challenges such as difficulty sleeping, and increase or decrease in appetite. It is not uncommon for college students to abuse drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. Some statistics of drinking in individuals under 21 years of age report that the majority of alcohol consumed is in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, violence, driving under the influence and accidents, and engaging in high-risk sexual behavior which can increase the risk of unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). The substances commonly abused by students in college include:

  • Alcohol: Binge drinking
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription medications (Adderall)
  • Over-the-counter cough syrup
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • Urgent Indicators

Individuals should seek help if they are experiencing increased stress or anxiety. The below symptoms are signs that a mental health professional should be contacted as soon as possible. Reach out to someone you trust or find a local therapist by visiting

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Compulsive and excessive drug or alcohol abuse
  • Isolation
  • High irritability/Uncontrollable crying
  • Uncontrollable violent outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble breathing/ Chest pain


Helpful Resources

Several healthy coping strategies can be used to manage stress successfully. Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule is one way to handle stress. Physicians recommend allowing 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily, eating healthy, and exercising. In addition, students can manage stress by avoiding drugs and alcohol, maintaining healthy relationships and social interactions, and taking the time to relax.Please do not hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional if you are feeling down or depressed, anxious, struggling with controlling your drinking or drug use, or experiencing stress or any distress. Seeking support from family or friends can be incredibly helpful. Below are some other potential resources you can reach out to if you are struggling.

  • Student clinic
  • Campus counselor
  • Substance abuse prevention hotlines
  • Academic advisors
  • Medical Doctor
  • Local clinic or hospital (off campus)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
  • Contact the campus or community police if your or someone else's safety is threatened

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