By: Nick
February 28, 2022

What Drugs Are Most Commonly Abused Among College Students?

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For many young people, the transition from high school to college is an unbelievably huge step. The college years bring with it increased responsibilities, but it also brings tremendous freedom and independence. While this newfound freedom is exhilarating and liberating, it can also be abused and often leads to trouble. The balancing act of keeping up with academics, work, and having a social life can feel overwhelming—and can lead to the use of drugs and alcohol.


College student addiction is a significant health issue. If you have a college-age son or daughter and you suspect substance abuse, now is the time to act. This article will take a deeper look into why college students abuse substances and what drugs are most commonly abused. Most importantly, you will know where to find addiction treatment.


Why is Drug Use Prevalent Among College Students?

Substance abuse among college students is not just a health issue; it impacts communities and can create significant problems for law enforcement. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides the following shocking statistics on substance abuse in college students:

  • 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
  • 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking. These consequences include missing and falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.
  • College-age students are the most considerable population that uses marijuana and illicit drugs such as MDMA, amphetamines, and hallucinogens.


There are several factors that make young people more vulnerable to college student addiction. One of the major causes is peer pressure. In a new environment and surrounded by new people, college students feel pressure to fit in—and substance abuse is one of those ways they try to “fit in.” For those who may be naturally introverted or have social anxiety, substances may be a way for them to loosen up. While drugs and alcohol may provide feelings of calm and relaxation, they also can be easily abused.


Another common reason why college students engage in substance abuse is curiosity. Many college students move away from home and are away from the protective shell of family and loved ones. College students are more apt to try new things with this newfound freedom. With peer pressure still being a major factor in shaping attitudes and behavior, college students are willing to use drugs and alcohol. Academic pressure is another major factor in the development of addiction in college students. The increased focus on academic performance, along with work and social pressures, can lead students to use substances to increase focus and productivity, leading to dependence and addiction issues.


What Drugs Are Most Commonly Abused Among College Students?

There is a myriad of substances that college students abuse. One of the common drugs abused by college students is alcohol. It is reported that 4 in 5 college students drink, and 33 percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 24 have engaged in binge drinking in the last month. Many view colleges as “party colleges,” and with the prevalent attitudes on college campuses that drinking is acceptable and a “normal part” of the college experience, significant numbers of college students may start drinking, and it can lead to dependence and addiction.


Another one of the common drugs abused by college students is marijuana. In a news release published by the NIH, 44% of college students reported using marijuana in the past year in 2020, compared to 38% in 2015. With a general trend of less expensive prices and higher potency strains of marijuana, there is an increased risk of dependence and even addiction among college students.


“Study drugs” such as Adderall and Ritalin are also some of the common drugs abused by college students. Primarily prescribed for those with ADHD, college students use these drugs in order to gain extra focus during their studies. These drugs also have stimulant effects and allow students to stay focused for longer periods of time. Additionally, over-the-counter medications such as Nyquil or those containing dextromethorphan can be used by college students for recreational purposes.


Is There Addiction Treatment for College Students?

College student addiction is a serious medical and social issue. If your son or daughter is struggling with a substance abuse issue, the time to find help is now. Fortunately, the help you need is just a phone call away. Multi-Concept Recovery is one of the premier treatment facilities in Southern California. We offer outpatient and day treatment services that can be tailored to meet the specific and unique needs of college-aged youth.

Our programs are evidence-based, and your son or daughter can attend treatment during the day or nighttime hours. The time to act is now; call MCR and help your teen break the cycle of addiction for good.