Welcome to College: The Prevalence of Substance Abuse on College Campuses

For many young people in the United States, college represents the first time that they’ve actually lived on their own away from home. Adjusting to not having the steadying influences of parents and family is often difficult. Combine that with new aspects unique to the college campus atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why so many of today’s college students are falling victim to substance abuse.

Reasons for Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Use

Among the demographic groups that show the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse, college students typically rank at or near the top. Pinpointing an exact reason behind the prevalence of this problem can be difficult because college life presents a number of different challenges that can lead to drug or alcohol addiction. These include:

  • Atmosphere: Parties, fraternity and sorority activities, and other social events that happen so frequently on campus are often accompanied by excessive drinking and drug use. For many, the use of such substances begins as a gesture of fitting in with their fellow students. Unfortunately, it can quickly progress to full-blown addiction.
  • Coursework: Some students have difficulties balancing a full load of classes with having to also work to support themselves and/or participating in internships or work study programs to gain experience in preparation for their careers. Many turn to stimulants or other substances to both handle the long hours of study and work and to deal with their stress.
  • Experimentation: For many, college is about self-discovery. Part of that exploration may include experimenting with illicit substances that they never had access to prior to arriving at college.

The Dangers of Addiction

Whatever the reason behind the abuse, the prevalence of drug and alcohol use on college campuses is particularly frightening due to the fact that such abuse will often continue on after graduation. In fact, it has been shown that younger people between the ages of 18 and 24 (coincidentally, the ages when most are attending college) are among the most likely to develop addictive behaviors.

Substance abuse problems that begin in college can often continue to haunt one throughout the rest of his or her life. Early intervention through treatments such as rapid detoxification may be key to stopping such problems before they become life-altering.

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