College life is the high tide for exploration and building one's identity in society. This is a transition stage towards adulthood and everything is new here. One of the major challenges in this period is the risk of the students engaging in drug abuse. However, one can find ways to prevent this unhealthy behavior and promote a better version of themselves.

How Common is Drug Abuse Among College Students in the United States?

Drug abuse on college campuses is one of the prevalent concerns in society today. This is the consequence of less parental supervision paired with the student's desire to venture into new things. Likewise, the availability of these drugs and illicit substances increases the risk of drug abuse.

To get a better picture of this problem in society, here are some important statistics regarding the situation.

  • Around 37 percent of college students are engaged in the use of illicit substances
  • 19 percent used other illicit substances aside from cannabis
  • Approximately 49 percent of full-time college students are engaged in either alcoholism or substance use disorder
  • Around 44 percent of students with substance use disorder is driving one's car. This contributes to the high incidence of motor vehicle accidents.
  • Majority or 63.3 percent of students in college campuses have alcoholism and substance use disorder

What Are the Commonly Abused Drugs by College Students?

There are numerous substances and illicit drugs available in society today. Among those things, certain substances stand out as the preferred ones by college students. Below are the most popular abused substances on college campuses.


  • This can be any part of the Cannabis indica plant. The dried parts of these plants are smoked mostly by students.
  • Individuals who started using this substance at an age younger than 18 are more prone to acquiring marijuana use disorder.
  • It is the most abused substance on college campuses. Around 25 to 33 percent of college students have used it last year.
  • Students using this substance increased by 0.9 percent from 1999 to 2015
  • A general ratio of 1 out 22 college students are engaged in marijuana abuse

Side Effects:

  • Reduced motor skills
  • Reduced cognitive function
  • Declining academic performance
  • Short-term memory


  • Commonly abused study drug
  • Around 10,000 college students with prescription of this drug sell it to other students
  • Estimated 60 percent of students abusing this drug are age 18 to 24 years old
  • In a survey, around 24 percent of the general University student population are using Adderall for studying purposes.
  • Students abusing this drug are 3 times likely to use marijuana
  • Students abusing this drug are 8 times likely to use cocaine

Side Effects:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite


  • Similar to Adderall, it is a study drug
  • Around 3 percent of college students are using this drug for the past six months
  • Around 7 to 33 percent of university students are using this drug for studying

Side Effects:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of appetite


  • This substance helps in the release of endorphins in the brain which results in a euphoric feeling.
  • Around 38 percent of students abusing this substance are between the age of 18 to 25 years
  • The population of students abusing this drug has greatly increased for the past 20 years.
  • There is 343 percent increment for students using this drug from 1993 to 2005.

Side Effects:

  • Chills and cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Stomach pain


  • Around 12.7 percent of students have used this substance at least once in a lifetime
  • People who have used this drug are also prone to abusing the following substances: cocaine (46%), inhalants (38%), LSD (28%), and heroin (17%)
  • In a study conducted, there is an increase of 69 percent of ecstasy abuse among college students.
  • Alcohol abuse increases the risk of using ecstasy and other party drugs

Side Effects:

  • Increase blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures

What Are the Consequences of College Drug Abuse?

It is known to most students that substance use disorder will have detrimental effects on one's health and academic performance. However, the majority of the college population are still engaged in this unhealthy behavior. To increase self-awareness, here are the common consequences of engaging in substance abuse.

Low School Performance

  • These substances alter the normal function of one's brain and decrease concentration.
  • Around 8.80 percent of medical students engaging in drug abuse had low marks on exams
  • Unable to meet deadlines of projects and submission of academic-related papers
  • An estimate of 13.20 percent of the student population has frequently missed one's class due to substance use disorder

Physical Impact

  • An estimate of 22.30 percent of students experienced memory loss from drug abuse
  • Around 45.30 percent of students engaged in drug abuse are frequently experiencing nausea and vomiting
  • Unbalanced appetite
  • Dizziness and frequent headaches
  • Approximately, 4.20 percent of students have experienced physical injury due to substance abuse

Mental and Behavioral Impact

  • Around 5.80 percent of students suffering from drug abuse have thought of committing suicide
  • Around 17.9 percent of the adult general population ages 18 years and older developed mental disorders due to substance abuse
  • From the above population, approximately 8.1 million are experiencing both drug abuse and mental disorders
  • Around 1.60 percent of students with issues on substance abuse have difficulty stopping it
  • 45.30 percent of student population felt remorse for doing something bad due to the influence of drugs and illicit substances
  • 0.50 percent of students have caused damage to property and triggering fire alarm due to substance influence
  • Having a dispute with the landlord, police, or any school administration personnel
  • Sexual harassment to the opposite sex
  • Around 16.40 percent of students with this unhealthy behavior have experience social stigma and criticism from other students
  • 18.90 percent of students with issues of drug abuse get into a fight with other students

What Are Some Risk Factors for College Drug Abuse?

The risk factors for college students engaging in substance use can be both internal and external to oneself. External risk factors have a greater influence on the student to abuse drugs and illicit substances. Below are some of its common risk factors.

  • The low financial status of the student and one’s family
  • An unhealthy relationship with family or having a broken family
  • Having peers who engage in drug abuse

What Can You Do About it?

There are several means of preventing a student from getting into this unhealthy behavior. The risk of having college drug abuse also depends on the student’s self-discipline to avoid this problem. Below are some strategies one can adapt and apply to avoid drug abuse.

  • Proper management of time and schedule so the student does not get pressured from meeting deadlines
  • Avoiding bars and parties where there is a huge risk of getting the first taste of illicit substances
  • Carefully select one’s circle of friends
  • Do not self medicate
  • Avoid binge drinking
  • Do community service