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A Look Into the Dangers of Drug Abuse in College

by | Last updated Sep 21, 2020 at 2:57PM | Published on Aug 10, 2020 | Drug Addiction

Dangers of Drug Abuse in College

Drug abuse in college isn’t new nor a secret. The moment young adults walk into their college dorms. It’s a constant social pressure to try drugs. Between peer pressure, academic pressure, and the hustle to maintain their grades, social life, and work-life, it can be easy to see why so many college students fall for drug abuse. 

There’s no doubt drug abuse in college across the United States is a common issue that can bring life-threatening consequences. Substances commonly abused by students in college include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription medications 
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
Drug Abuse in College Statistics

Marijuana Abuse in College

After alcohol abuse and alcoholism, marijuana is the most commonly abused substance by college students. Around 47% of college students say they tried it at least once, and 30% said they used it in the past year. Even today, marijuana remains a controversial subject. Particular with so many states legalizing the substance for recreational use. Because of this, most people believe marijuana is not harmful or addictive. 

However, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, close to nine percent of users become addicted. Obtaining marijuana in college is relatively inexpensive and easy to access. People smoke it, eat it in edibles, and even drink it as tea. Marijuana produces a euphoric feeling that helps calm nerves, ease anxiety, and overall delivers a “feel-good” experience. 

Not to mention, most marijuana users are also binge drinkers or experiment with other illicit drugs as well. Estimates believe 98 percent of drug users abuse more than one substance at a time. 

Stimulants and Other Illicit Drugs

While not as prevalent as alcohol and marijuana, stimulants like cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, and heroin are very popular among college students. Ecstasy, also known as a popular club drug is a highly addictive stimulant. Close to 13 percent of college students try ecstasy at least once in their lifetime. 

These types of drugs carry some long-term side effects and many risk factors. Ecstasy often leads to risky sexual behavior. Cocaine and heroin can increase heart and blood pressure and carry higher chances of overdose than other drugs. Not to mention, these drugs rewire the brain and alter their chemistry almost instantly. 

The Dangerous Rise of Prescription Drug Abuse

The prescription drug abuse epidemic is also affecting college students. Prescription drugs are easy to obtain both legally and on the streets. Around 62 percent of students have a valid prescription for ADHD and still give them to students without prescriptions. 

These “study drugs” are sold to students with the promises that they’ll perform better academically. Many of them are looking for a boost and don’t realize the high potential for addiction these drugs have. Around 81 percent of students don’t see the danger of illegally using stimulants, and over 30 percent of them have tried them at least once. 

However, most Schedule II substances are highly addictive. These “smart drugs” are meant for short-term treatment of specific conditions. When misused, they can lead to long-term damage to the brain and substance abuse disorders. 

College students also experiment with narcotic painkillers and central nervous system depressants like muscle relaxants, sleep aids, Valium, and Xanax. These work to relax the muscles and ease anxiety and are among the most commonly prescribed medication that just happens to be some of the most addictive as well. 

OTC Drug Abuse in College

Another class of drugs college students abuse is over-the-counter drugs. Substances like cough medicines that contain DXM are among the most popular. These require no prescription and are widely available in stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores. Not to mention, they don’t raise any red flags of addiction like other illicit drugs. 

Although most OTC abusers are children and teenagers, college students might use them combined with other drugs and substances like alcohol. These drugs cause dizziness, nausea, and loss of control, which is why they’re often combined with other party drugs. 

Recognizing Drug Abuse in College

Recognizing Drug Abuse in College

When you abuse one substance, you are at higher risk of abuse other, possibly more severe substances. As a result of continual substance abuse, psychological and physical dependence can occur. Therefore, a college student’s recreational drug use can easily develop into full-blown drug addiction. 

Recognizing drug abuse among college students can be challenging, but it’s essential to keep an eye on the various signs. Here are a few warning signs to look for:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Drastic changes in weight
  • Isolation
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Unidentified pill bottles
  • Constant trouble with the law
  • Traffic accidents
  • Violent outbursts
  • High-risk sexual behavior
  • Skipping classes
  • Agitation
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Decreased focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression

Consequences of Drug Abuse

Beyond the obvious academic consequences of drug abuse for college students, it’s paramount to talk about the long-term physiological, psychological, and social effects. Some of the consequences of drug abuse and addiction include:

  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Under-the-influence-related injuries
  • Organ damage and failure
  • Respiratory illness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Financial and labor-related difficulties
  • Isolation from family and friends

Preventing Drug Abuse in College

Time and time again, it is being proven that drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone regardless of their age, religion, social class, ethnicity, or status of employment. Young adults heading off to college are particularly susceptible to drug addiction because of how much drug abuse occurs on college campuses.

While there isn’t a way to make sure you or your child can avoid exposure to drugs at school, you can educate on drug abuse and addiction. You can be as prepared as possible and work on practicing healthier coping skills. While college is known for drinking, parties, drugs, and experimenting, there are also several resources, such as drug-free living, 12-Step meetings, support groups, and student counseling. The best thing to do is educate yourself and your loved one about these available resources and addiction as a whole.

Addiction Treatment Options for College Students

Many college students and their families believe they’ll have to abandon their studies to pursue addiction treatment. In reality, if someone continues to walk down the path of addiction, there’s no much they’ll be able to do with their academic pursues. Addiction is likely to wreak havoc on their lives and relationships, preventing them from reaching their goals. 

Many students choose to take off a semester to enlist on drug rehab programs. Others decide to partake in an intensive outpatient program that provides them the flexibility to continue their classes and daily responsibilities while attending treatment. 

Most of the time, they’ll start with a detox program paired with a partial hospitalization program (PHP) that eases withdrawal symptoms and provides patients with a secure and supervised environment to begin their recovery is often the first step. Many treatment facilities can help drug addicts and family members structure the right treatment plan.

Treatment Options

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction recovery programs include:

Drug and Alcohol Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process, we ensure the patient’s safety under medical supervision and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 

Partial Hospitalization Programs: Long-term use of drugs and alcohol can lead to many health issues. It’s essential to seek the right medical treatment to prevent these from becoming permanent consequences and prevent a Vicodin overdose.

Intensive Outpatient Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 

Aftercare Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention by giving patients access to support groups to help them navigate their opioid addiction.

Group Therapy: For recovering addicts, group meetings and a strong support system are paramount for long-term sobriety. Our group therapy sessions are designed to foster a supportive environment that helps people walk through their recovery journeys feeling supported and motivated.

Get Help Today

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug abuse, ask for help immediately. Please, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

We offer unique and personalized treatment plans because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it. Please, whether you or a loved one is thinking about starting addiction treatment, don’t delay it. Start your addiction treatment journey today. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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