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Drug Abuse | Clearbrook Treatment CentersWelcome! Today, we’ll be talking about how drug addiction and abuse can begin in college. Whether you’re a parent who recently sent a teen off to college, a college student hoping to watch him or herself for signs of trouble, or someone who’s now well past that stage in life and wondering what may have happened many years ago, this article will contain some useful knowledge about common causes for drug abuse in college.

The Problem

Drug abuse is rampant in college, with an extremely high availability of several drugs:

  • Alcohol: A large portion of college students use alcohol at social events like parties and Greek life events. Due to a mixture of peer pressure and curiosity, college students are susceptible to the dangers of the drug, and are at high risk for abusing it.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana is perceived as a soft drug, especially among college students. This leads to oversight about the consequences and addictiveness of the drug, which eventually leads to potential abuse and the introduction to other drugs.
  • Prescription Medications: Many college students abuse their prescriptions, or begin using prescription drugs in an illicit manner. Drugs like Adderall are perceived as safe because they are prescribed by a doctor, but students don’t realize that prescription drugs are just as dangerous as normal illicit substances.
  • Over The Counter Drugs: College students tend to abuse over the counter drugs, especially cough syrup containing a substance called dextromethorphan. Many students abuse these drugs in order to feel a buzz.
  • Cocaine, Heroin, Ecstasy, etc: While students have been known to abuse drugs that are incorrectly perceived as safe, it’s known that college students also abuse illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, specifically at parties.

It’s important to realize and identify how drug abuse may begin, specifically in college, as it is a time when many young people are susceptible to becoming addicted to drugs.


College, while being an enjoyable and exciting time, can also lead to stress. Students are met with a new way of learning and living, along with an increased workload from their classes. The stress of having to do basic household tasks like laundry and cleaning is enough to put a serious dent in new college students’ moods as they adjust to their new lifestyle. Coupled with an increased workload from professors who want their students to think and learn independently, along with the stress of having to acclimate to a new environment and make new friends, it’s not hard to understand that college students have a lot on their plate.

Unfortunately for some, this added stress leads to drug abuse. One drug that seems to be affecting a large number of college students is Adderall. While Adderall is conventionally prescribed to people with ADHD, many students use it to sharpen their focus and get a leg up on their coursework. As with any other prescription drug, do not take Adderall unless you have been prescribed it by a doctor. It’s a common misconception that drugs like Adderall are “OK” to abuse because they’re typically prescribed to people who require them. This misconception is rooted in falsehood, and it’s a wise decision to stay away from drugs, including prescriptions, that are not meant for you. Remember that it’s extremely easy to get addicted to prescription drugs such as Adderall and Oxycontin, and that these drugs are just as dangerous as their illegal counterparts.

Curiosity / Pressure

For many students, college is their first time living on their own, without guidance and mentorship from their parents. For this reason, college students may be susceptible to outside influence from their peers, which may lead to heightened curiosity. Additionally, students are beginning to explore new aspects of their personal, academic, and social lives. Since they’re trying and learning new things elsewhere in their lives, college students may be tempted to try drugs as well. With a large amount of exposure to parties, Greek life, sporting events, and social get-togethers, college students are always faced with decisions regarding drugs as they progress through college.

Additionally, the high availability of drugs during college makes it difficult for students to avoid them. One of the most prevalent trends with college students and drug use involves alcohol. Many students avoid alcohol in high school but feel that it’s safer in college, due to the large number of people who use it. Studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that as many as 38% of college students admit to having been drunk in the last month, compared with 25% of people from a non-college group sample. Additionally, 32% of college students admit to binge drinking within the past 2 weeks, compared to just 23% of people from the non-college group. Nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana use is also prevalent, with nearly 5% of college students admitting to using marijuana daily in 2015. Approximately 28% of college students admit to using a hookah in the last year, with roughly 10% admitting to using cigarettes and e cigarettes. Finally, an increase in cocaine usage is occurring, with yearly usage increasing from 2.7% in 2013 to 4.4% in 2014.

Finally, drug abuse can be caused by peer pressure. As stated above, drugs and alcohol are extremely easy to come by in college. Secondly, many younger students can be influenced negatively by their older counterparts, especially at events such as fraternity parties and football games. It’s important to remind yourself or your children to stand up against those who push drug and alcohol use in college, in order to effectively prevent addiction from occurring.

Identification and Mitigation

It’s important to understand what you or your child may be going through during college, but it’s equally important to take precautions against the problems that may be encountered during college. By taking some cautionary steps, concerned parents and students can help stop the problem of addiction before it even starts. Make sure you watch out for signs like a sudden decrease in academic performance, rapid changes in mood, unusual behavior, or any other signs that may show that you or your child is “off”. In the event that drug abuse is occurring, it’s important to discuss it openly within your family and determine the next steps. For most people, these steps consist of finding the right rehabilitation center and beginning treatment. We hope this article provided you with some insight on what causes addiction and drug abuse within college.

Contact Us For Drug Abuse Treatment

For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been treating drug abuse and alcoholism. If you or a loved one is currently struggling with addiction, please do not wait any longer. We understand the struggle of chemically dependency and know the pain it can cause you and your family. With decades of experience in treating the disease, we have had the pleasure of watching many recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind. It would be our honor and privilege to help you on the path toward sobriety as well. Please contact our Admissions Specialists today for further information.




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