Comprehensive Guide to Drugs on Campus

Your college years are meant to be an unforgettable time — a time to not only build a professional foundation for success, but to make lifelong friends, find your passions and grow intellectually.

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For most new students, college also brings a newfound sense of freedom. For the first time, you are the sole person responsible for the decisions that will affect your day-to-day life. With this freedom, you will likely find yourself experiencing new things, new people and new ideas.

You may be exposed to a party and drug culture that you have never experienced. Most likely, you will also be presented with the opportunity to drink heavily and try drugs.

If you are a current or future college student, this guide is intended to help you understand the dangers associated with substance abuse.

College students have greater access to drugs today than they’ve had in the past. With this availability comes the greater risk of students developing abusive habits during their college years.

This is not an “abstinence only” guide. It is not intended to make you feel judged or guilty. Rather, this guide uses a comprehensive, practical and realistic approach to assessing the risks and realities of drug use and drinking.

This guide also serves as a resource for getting help if you or someone you ever struggles with a substance use disorder.

Partying, drinking and using drugs are common experiences on college campuses across the United States. College students have greater access to drugs today than they’ve had in the past. With this availability comes the greater risk of students developing abusive habits during their college years.

It may be challenging to avoid substances or people who use them, as many students try alcohol for the first time in college and some experiment with drugs. You can, however, educate yourself about the specific risks of activities or environments involving drugs or alcohol, ensuring your safety and possibly the safety of your friends.

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A campus courtyard with students walking.

Drugs Commonly Found on Campus

While college can be a fun and enjoyable experience, the responsibilities of being a student and balancing your life may cause you to feel some level of stress.

Many college students use drugs or drink heavily to reduce stress. Combine that with easy access to various substances and it can be very easy for students to develop drug dependence.

There’s no telling what sort of substances you will come across in your city or social circle. While on campus, you may encounter the following substances:

Glasses of whiskey


Alcohol, the most commonly used substance on college campuses, has been a large part of university culture for decades. Alcohol is commonly used among college students during parties and other social events, including birthday celebrations and sporting events.

While people generally associate drinking with parties, tailgating and bars, the opportunity to drink heavily can happen at almost any time during college. However, many students don’t realize the dangers of heavy drinking. Excessive drinking can cause you to endanger yourself and others, especially if you drink and drive or ride with an intoxicated driver.

Alcohol hinders your ability to think clearly. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to risky behaviors, such as engaging in unprotected sex, or memory loss from blacking out.

Excessive drinking can also cause health problems such as liver damage, heart complications and alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. More than 1,800 college students die of alcohol-related causes each year, according to a 2014 report by The New York Times.

It is important to take your surroundings into account before you drink. If you decide to drink, know your limits. Long-term heavy drinking can result in addiction and physical dependence. These consequences can happen more quickly than you may anticipate.

Where Alcohol Is Found

Alcohol can be found in dorm rooms, student residences, fraternity and sorority houses, campus greens, restaurants and bars. The drug is also common at parties and sporting events.

Who Uses Alcohol

People of all ages and backgrounds drink. But some studies show students who attend college drink at higher rates than their peers who do not.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 58 percent of full-time college students aged 18 to 22 reported drinking in the past month. In comparison, 48.2 percent of people between 18 and 22 who do not attend college full time reported drinking in the past month. Among this age group, drinking rates were highest for 21-year-olds.

How Alcohol Could Affect Your College Life

Alcohol can affect your brain, heart, liver and pancreas. Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body more susceptible to disease.

Drinking can lead to numerous side effects, including:

  • Stomach distress
  • Reduced coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

Heavy alcohol consumption can impede your academic progress. Heavy drinking could cause you to miss class the next morning. If you attend class after a night of drinking, your ability to process information could be compromised.

Marijuana Leaves


Many students use marijuana to relax or relieve stress. Students often smoke pot during parties or in preparation for a social event.

The rate of past-year marijuana use among surveyed college students rose from 30.2 percent in 2006 to nearly 38 percent, according to the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey.

The drug continues to make headlines as decriminalization and legalization spread around the country. This trend is expected to continue as many Americans, especially young people, support federal marijuana legalization.

While marijuana has never been attributed to overdose or fatalities from toxicity, using the drug does have health consequences. Marijuana impairs your motor functions, and numerous traffic accidents are caused by marijuana use. Prolonged use can cause lung problems, depression, addiction and increased risk of mental health problems.

The social stigma associated with heavy marijuana use can also damage your reputation among peers, professors and employers. Many employers test candidates for drug use, and government agencies such as the FBI will not accept job applicants who have regularly used marijuana in the past.

Where Marijuana Is Found

Marijuana can be found in dorm rooms, student residences, fraternity and sorority houses, campus greens and bars. The drug might also be found at parties.

Who Uses Marijuana

Students across all social cliques use marijuana. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.3 percent of surveyed full-time college students aged 18 to 22 reported past-month marijuana use. Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug among surveyed college students in 2015.

How Marijuana Could Affect College Life

Marijuana can cause numerous problems, including:

  • Laziness
  • Impaired body movement
  • Breathing problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Paranoia

Students who smoke marijuana may develop a lack of motivation. This can cause students to miss class or fail to complete homework assignments. Marijuana use can also result in memory problems, making studying more difficult.

Cannabis use can fracture relationships with friends, family members and significant others. People who use marijuana may also experience hallucinations, changes in mood and impaired memory. Long-term cannabis use can lead to temporary hallucinations or worsening of symptoms in people with schizophrenia.

Pills in persons' hand


A prescription pill designed to help people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Adderall has become the study drug of choice for late-night essay writing and last-minute studying. Students also use the drug at social events, including parties and sporting events.

Many college students use this “study drug” to stay awake and focused for lengthy study sessions and other academic demands. Adderall is a habit-forming drug. Heavy Adderall use can cause withdrawal symptoms and a strong desire to take more. Besides being addictive, the drug can cause sleep disturbances and numerous other side effects, such as nausea, headaches and weight loss.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Adderall can cause extreme health risks. Some individuals experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, seizures and hallucinations. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

Where Adderall Is found

Adderall is often used in dorm rooms, student residences, libraries, fraternity and sorority houses and classrooms.

Who Uses Adderall

Physicians prescribe Adderall to students with attention problems. However, many students without a prescription misuse the drug, including students who want to stay up late studying. Student athletes may use the drug to achieve a competitive edge.

How Adderall Could Affect Your College Life

Adderall can affect a student’s physical and mental health. Common side effects of Adderall use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

Adderall can also cause loss of appetite and sleeplessness, two side effects that could affect a student’s academic success and social life.

“Taken in too-large doses, [Adderall] has potentially dangerous or even lethal side effects, including hallucinations, other psychotic symptoms, strokes or heart attacks,” Dr. David Baron, medical director at Yellowbrick and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The Chicago Medical School, told the Chicago Tribune.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 12.1 percent of surveyed people aged 18 to 25 reported using Adderall or a similar prescription amphetamine product in the past year.

Ritalin Pills


College students take the psychostimulant drug Ritalin to increase focus, study late into the night or push through a long week of testing.

Much like Adderall, Ritalin started as a useful aid for people with attention disorders. Over time, it became more widely prescribed and more heavily abused. College students now use the stimulant for its euphoric effects at parties and other social events.

Repeated exposure to the medication can weaken the heart muscles and leave you vulnerable to stroke or addiction. Excessive use can cause brain damage, high blood pressure, psychosis and damage to other vital organs.

Where Ritalin Is Found

Like Adderall, Ritalin can be found in dorm rooms, student residences, classrooms, and fraternity and sorority houses.

Who Uses Ritalin

Since the 1950s, doctors have prescribed Ritalin to treat symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression. The drug was prescribed to approximately 6 million Americans in 2013, according to the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah. That year, children accounted for three-quarters of all Ritalin prescriptions.

Ritalin, like cocaine, is a stimulant that produces intense euphoric effects. This has led countless college students to the drug for recreational purposes.

However, just 3.3 percent of surveyed people aged 18 to 25 reported using Ritalin or similar methylphenidate drugs in the past year, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

How Ritalin Could Affect Your School Life

Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant that comes with several side effects, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Vision problems
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Skin rash
  • Numbness

The most common side effects of stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, is insomnia, which can affect a student’s concentration. College students with heart conditions who use the drug may experience hallucinations or cardiac arrest.

Xanax pills on table


Xanax, or alprazolam, is a prescription medication used to slow brain activity, manage panic attacks and reduce stress. Doctors often prescribe the drug to students with anxiety or depression.

Because it is widely prescribed and used, it is one of the easiest drugs to obtain illicitly. Many students buy these benzodiazepines from friends or dealers who have prescriptions.

Xanax is powerfully addictive. Once you start taking the medication, coming down off it can pose a challenge. Those addicted to Xanax often isolate themselves. They rely on the drug to relax or to feel normal.

When used properly, the drug is effective in relieving symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. However, misusing the drug can lead to mood swings, fainting spells, memory loss or overdose.

Where Xanax Is Found

Xanax can be found in dorm rooms and student residences.

Who Uses Xanax

Students battling anxiety disorders, panic disorders or anxiety caused by depression often use Xanax. College students who feel highly stressed or overworked may also use the anti-anxiety medication.

The drug produces intoxicating effects without the weight gain of alcohol, which drug experts hypothesized may lead students to misuse Xanax. In October 2016, an informant told police that wrestlers at the University of Minnesota were dealing and using Xanax.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 4.3 percent of people aged 18 to 25 reported misusing alprazolam in the past year. Xanax had the highest misuse rate among all benzodiazepine tranquilizer products.

How Xanax Could Affect Your School Life

Xanax use can result in side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Slurred speech
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Appetite changes

Xanax use has resulted in poor academic performance in some students. Misusing the drug can affect energy levels, focus, memory and motivation. Students who use the drug may oversleep because of drowsiness, causing them to miss class.

Blue pills on a dictionary.


The academic and financial responsibilities of college can cause many students to feel stressed. Some students who experience an overwhelming amount of stress or depression may take antidepressants to cope.

Antidepressant medications reduce symptoms of depressive disorders, which are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Doctors prescribe antidepressants, such as Prozac and Zoloft, to help students overcome a mental health condition. But these drugs can lead to a habit of abuse or addiction.

People taking antidepressants may become dependent on the drug, which can result in sleep problems, irritability and sexual dysfunction. Mixing antidepressants with alcohol can worsen symptoms, causing you to feel more anxious, depressed or drowsy. Combining these substances can also affect your coordination, judgement and reaction time.

Where Antidepressants Are Found

Antidepressants can be found in dorms or student residences.

Who Uses Antidepressants

Students with clinical depression use the drug. Those who have difficulties dealing with adulthood may turn to the drug.

Many young adults use antidepressants around the time they are making plans for the future and establishing adult relationships. A growing number of young adults with rapidly changing living situations, classes, jobs and relationships take antidepressants.

Many students are on antidepressants before arriving on campus. A report by The New York Times stated that the percentage of students on antidepressants who were treated at college counseling centers nearly tripled from 1994 to 2006.

How Antidepressants Could Affect Your School Life

Antidepressants can cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea or weight gain.

Additional side effects of these drugs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation

College students on antidepressants may have difficulties interacting with classmates and teachers. They may feel irritable or have mood swings, which could affect their relationships or their ability to make friends.

Steroid needle


Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances associated with male sex hormones. When used properly, these drugs can treat hormonal issues, delayed puberty and muscle loss in men. However, many individuals illicitly use steroids to boost workouts, increase muscle mass and gain a competitive edge.

Also known as performance enhancing drugs, steroids are typically injected into the bloodstream or taken orally. They increase testosterone levels and proteins in muscle cells to help people gain weight, develop muscle and increase strength.

Students who abuse steroids often take doses much higher than those prescribed to treat medical conditions. While they often take these drugs to rapidly achieve workout and performance goals, developing this kind of relationship with steroids can put your health at risk. Men who misuse steroids can experience shrinkage of their testicles, reduced sperm count and infertility, breast growth and increased risk of prostate cancer. Women who misuse these drugs may experience facial hair growth, baldness, irregular menstrual cycles, enlargement of the clitoris and a deepened voice.

Where Steroids Are Found

Steroids may be found in gym locker rooms or other athletic areas.

Who Uses Steroids

Steroid use is not uncommon among student-athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. They use the drugs to increase their stamina, strength and overall athletic performance. Also, college students who strive to gain weight or build muscles may use steroids.

Less than 1 percent of college students reported past-month steroid use in 2015, according to the Monitoring the Future survey.

How Steroids Could Affect Your School Life

Steroid use can result in many side effects, including:

  • Kidney problems
  • Liver damage
  • Enlarged heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes to blood cholesterol

College students who take steroids may exhibit irritability, hostility, aggression or violent behavior. This may present danger to significant others, family members, friends or roommates. These behaviors could lead to arrest, which could compromise a college student’s academic status.

Cocaine lines laid out around money


Most commonly used in powdered form on college campuses, cocaine has a powerful stimulating effect. When snorted, this drug provides a burst of energy and euphoria. Cocaine is often referenced in pop culture. It is sometimes referred to as blow, coke or powder.

Cocaine use peaked in the 1980s, but it can still be found on college campuses today. The stimulant may be particularly popular among club-goers, fraternities and sororities.

Cocaine’s dangerous side effects are among the most intense and immediate of any drug. The drug elevates your blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. Overdoses, heart attacks and strokes resulting in death are common among people who use it.

Cocaine changes the brain’s chemical balance and reward system, making the drug physically and psychologically addictive. In 2011, SAMHSA reported that cocaine caused roughly 40 percent of all emergency department visits involving illicit drugs. While the majority of ED visits related to illicit drugs involved multiple substances, cocaine most commonly involved single drug, followed by marijuana.

Where Cocaine Is Found

Cocaine can be found in fraternity or sorority houses, dorm rooms or student residences. The substance has also been used in bars.

Who Uses Cocaine

The University of Maryland conducted a study that examined cocaine use among college students at one large public university. Survey findings indicated that one in eight college students used cocaine sometime during their four years of college.

The study also found that by the fourth year of college, 36 percent of students had been offered cocaine at least once in their lifetime and 13 percent had used cocaine. Men had significantly more opportunities to try cocaine than women during years two, three and four.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4 percent of people aged 18 to 25 reported past-year cocaine use. Nearly 2 percent of this demographic reported using cocaine in the past month.

How Cocaine Could Affect Your School Life

Cocaine use can leave students battling numerous health problems, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures

Cocaine use can lead to poor academic performance, tardiness, absenteeism, forgetfulness and impaired decision making. It can also result in relationship and financial problems. Students who use cocaine increase their risk for anxiety or depression.

A crowd of people in motion


Psychedelic substances, such as LSD and mushrooms, cause users to experience an altered state of mind known as “tripping.” When tripping, people lose their sense of reality. They experience hallucinations, an altered sense of time and space, and a heightened sense of thinking.

Depending on the dosage and type of substance, a trip can last anywhere from 2 to 24 hours. In extreme cases, a trip can last even longer.

Psychedelics are hallucinogenic drugs that can cause people to act unpredictably. Occasionally, tripping can result in paranoia, psychosis, general discomfort or seizures. It can also cause negative thinking that can last throughout the trip.

Where Psychedelics Are Found

Psychedelics can be found in dorm rooms, student residences, campus greens, fraternity and sorority houses or parties.

Who Uses Psychedelics

Students interested in drug experimentation may use psychedelics. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.7 percent of surveyed people aged 18 to 25 used LSD during their lifetime. Nearly three percent of those surveyed used the drug in the past year.

How Psychedelics Could Affect Your School Life

Psychedelics can cause many short-term health effects, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Agitation

Psychedelics alter a person’s state of mind. Abusing these drugs may impact your effectiveness in class or prevent you from attending. Students who use psychedelics may fail to complete homework assignments, leading to poor academic performance.

Colored ecstasy pills with shapes stamped in to them.


Ecstasy, also known as molly, is the common drug name for MDMA. When taken, this drug releases dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for feeling happiness and reward. The release of dopamine produces euphoric feelings and energy in users.

Ecstasy comes in the form of fine powder, pill or crystal-like rock. While it has existed since the 1980s, ecstasy has seen a dramatic rise in popularity among college students. The drug is frequently found at electronic dance music festivals.

Ecstasy use can be incredibly dangerous. Dealers and suppliers will often cut MDMA with unknown substances to increase their quantity. The effects of MDMA can last up to 12 hours. Ecstasy use can lead to consequences such as heart problems and dehydration. The spread of imposter chemicals disguised as ecstasy can send users to the hospital and even result in death.

Where Ecstasy Is Found

Ecstasy can be found at bars, clubs, music festivals and college parties.

Who Uses Ecstasy

College students may take ecstasy at a nightclub or dance party to achieve feelings of increased energy, pleasure and emotional warmth. The drug is prevalent at electronic dance music festivals and has led to multiple cases of overdose in recent years.

Ecstasy is a popular drug among college-aged adults. According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, 4.4 percent of surveyed people aged 19 to 28 reported past-year ecstasy use. Nearly 13 percent of people in this age group reported using ecstasy in their lifetime.

How Ecstasy Could Affect Your School Life

In addition to ecstasy’s euphoric effects, it can produce many side effects, including:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite

The drug can cause hangovers that last several days. This can affect a student’s academic, work and social life.

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Two people sitting and talking

Where Students Encounter Drugs on Campus

There is not a single, designated area of campus where drugs are consumed. Substances can be present anywhere. It is important to be aware of the various environments where you may encounter these substances and know how to effectively handle each situation.

Students in dorm room

Dorms and Apartments

Your housing arrangements during college can be a revolving door of guests and impromptu gatherings. While many of your college partying experiences will happen elsewhere, you might find others in your dorm room, apartment or house hosting social events involving drugs or alcohol.

If a party takes place at your residence, do not overindulge in drugs or alcohol. If your living situation becomes a toxic environment of substance abuse, do not hesitate to speak up or seek a new arrangement.

Young adults at a house party


College students often attend the occasional house, bar or club party and are exposed to some kind of substance use during that time. Social events are an enjoyable part of the college experience. However, these events can also be rampant with heavy drinking and drug use.

College parties can be big or small. Either way, alcohol likely will be served in some capacity, whether that is a keg or a fully stocked bar. There could be a number of other drugs available as well: a couple joints being passed around, students doing cocaine or ecstasy, or mixing multiple substances.

Knowing your own limits is crucial. During a party, you likely will experience peer pressure. Partygoers may offer you drugs, or they may encourage you to drink beyond your capacity. It is up to you to make sound, healthy and safe decisions.

Be aware of your tolerance to alcohol or other drugs. Do not succumb to peer pressure, and be sure to enlist a sober driver before the party.

Cocktail made at a bar


Many college students gather at bars to socialize and drink. Bars offer patrons an array of beers and liquors, and they are open past midnight in many college towns. However, many underage students frequent bars with fake identification, and bartenders do not always ask for an ID.

Unlike house parties, bars can refuse you service if bartenders believe you have had too much to drink. These establishments may also call a cab for you if you are intoxicated.

If you plan on going to a bar, be sure to organize your evening in advance. Decide how you will get home safely. Mobile ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft make it easier than ever to get home safely. Drinking and driving can lead to DUIs, car accidents, fines, jail sentences or death. It is not worth it.

As with any other social outing, know your limits. Do your best to make wise choices, and never operate a motor vehicle under the influence.

Students studying together

Study Groups

With the rise of Adderall and Ritalin on college campuses, libraries have become environments for drug use.

Even the brightest students may use drugs to study all night or finish a big paper the day before it is due. Under tight deadlines, it can be tempting to take Adderall or Ritalin, but is important understand the habit this can create. Abusing prescription amphetamines can lead to dependence and addiction, and it can cause people to rely on the drugs to get through a study session.

The health ramifications of pills such as Adderall and Ritalin should not be ignored. You may be convinced that a study pill will solve your troubles and give you the boost you need to complete a big assignment or prepare for an exam. At the same time, you are relying on a drug to get work done. If this is normal for you, you may have an addiction. There are plenty of ways to naturally increase your productivity and efficiency without relying on pills.

Drug deal between two students


On college campuses across the nation, drug dealers are willing to sell you whatever substance they have available. These individuals may not look like criminals. They may be college students.

You may become friends with one of these dealers. You may even end up living with one at some point. Buying drugs from a friend who sells can be an easy and amicable experience, but as with any situation involving illegal substances, there are risks.

Living with a drug dealer could leave you susceptible to becoming a victim of home invasion. A 2016 report by found that drug dealers in Worcester, Massachusetts, were more likely to be victims of home invasions or burglary.

You may think that because a dealer is a friendly person, your relationship is based on trust and friendship. While this can be true, drug dealers often care more about your money than your well-being.

It is important to never put yourself in a risky situation. If you suspect any substance could be dangerous, do not take it.

Campus stairs with people sitting on them

Sober Spaces

Avoiding substance abuse should not have to be a daily activity. An increasing number of colleges, such as Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, are addressing this issue by creating “sober spaces,” substance-free residence halls and sober-living communities that provide students an opportunity to avoid drug use and drinking.

Other colleges, such as the University of Michigan, organize social gatherings that promote sobriety. More than 100 collegiate recovery communities exist on campuses across the United States.

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college,” Mary Jo Desprez, director of the University of Michigan’s Wolverine Wellness department and founder of the school’s Collegiate Recovery Program, said during an on-campus panel. “These kids, who have the courage to see their problem early on, have the right to an education, too, but need support.”

Finding a sober space at many other colleges may be difficult. But meeting fellow sober students and collaborating to build these spaces can be a great start.

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college.”

Mary Jo Deprez, University of Michigan

Locate places around your campus or town where you can be productive and where you feel welcomed and safe. Speak with your school administrators about resources for creating these environments when none are available.

If your roommates or classmates make you feel uncomfortable with their substance use, discuss the situation with them. If nothing changes, sit down with your professors or resident assistants and discuss your options. Changing your living arrangements could result in a more enjoyable college experience.

Man with head in hands on campus steps

Addiction and Other Risks

While using drugs or alcohol in college may seem like harmless fun at first, it may lead to dependence and addiction. Addiction is a debilitating medical condition that may ruin your academic career, destroy important personal relationships and possibly end your chances of leading a normal life ever again.

In addition to the risk of addiction, substance abuse can lead to health problems, legal issues or arrests, discipline from your school and a damaged reputation.


Many students with addiction do not recognize their substance abuse problems. Addiction can develop in less than two months of substance use.

Addiction does not develop only in heavy drug users. Addiction can claim friends, family members and people with a lot at stake, often without anyone knowing they have a problem.

Even when people battling addiction realize they need help, the disease can be one of the most difficult things they will ever face. It can take months or years to achieve sobriety, and relapse, though not considered a failure, is par for the course in recovery.

Some drugs are more addictive than others. Some individuals are more prone to addiction than others. No matter who you are, it is important to understand that using drugs or alcohol can lead to dependency or addiction. Thinking you are immune to addiction is simply a false belief. Everyone is vulnerable.

Having an addiction does not make you a criminal. It does not make you a bad person. It does not mean that you cannot go on to be successful or do great things. However, admitting you need help is an important first step, one that can save your life.

There will never be a convenient time to get treatment, and many addicts use the excuse “I am too busy right now; I’ll get help later.” If you struggle with addiction, seek assistance. If you know someone who needs help with a substance use disorder, encourage them to enter treatment. Do not wait until it is too late.

Health Problems

Every substance mentioned in this guide has harmful side effects that can lead to serious health issues. This applies not only to long-term users, but also to occasional or one-time users. As you abuse substances more regularly, your likelihood of developing physical and mental health problems increases. Co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or ADHD, can be the root cause of a substance use disorder or exacerbated by drug or alcohol use. No matter how healthy you feel, nobody is immune to the health risks of substance abuse.

Law Enforcement

Many recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, are illegal. Police officers make thousands of arrests on college campuses each year for drug possession. In 2014, police made nearly 45,000 substance-related arrests on U.S. college campuses, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Legal substances such as alcohol can put you at risk of breaking the law. Each year, college students are arrested for driving under the influence, exhibiting intoxication in public and drinking while underage. Buying or selling substances can also have serious legal ramifications, including incarceration.

School Discipline

As an active student at a university, you are expected to meet certain behavioral standards outside of the classroom. At some colleges, getting caught with drugs can result in a grade penalty, suspension or expulsion. In 2014, American college campuses reported more than 250,000 cases of disciplinary action related to substance abuse.

In addition, getting caught using drugs or being drunk can permanently damage your reputation among classmates and university faculty. Once you cross that line, it may be difficult to rebuild your reputation.

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Beer bottles

Recognizing a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Identifying a substance abuse problem can be difficult, especially when you’re immersed in an environment where substance use is accepted as the norm. When drugs or alcohol start to cause difficulties in your life and hinder your academic success, recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.

Look for these signs if you feel substance abuse is affecting your life:

  • Dropping grades
  • Failing to attend class
  • Growing distant from friends or family
  • Spending more money purchasing drugs
  • Multiplying health problems
  • Feeling unmotivated to fulfill daily obligations
  • Showing negative changes in mood or personality
  • Falling behind schedule or feeling overwhelmed by assignments

Some students can conceal their substance abuse. Many people manage drug or alcohol problems long before they enter college. These issues may linger throughout their lives.

Do not allow external factors to influence your decision to seek help. You have to be the one who decides to put an end to your addiction.

Group of young people applauding.

Finding Help

Substance abuse afflicts millions of normal college students just like you. For some, it is the beginning of a lifelong struggle. Others seek assistance before substance abuse becomes addiction.

Many students battling substance abuse require treatment to get better. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed; seeking assistance shows a great deal of maturity and self-realization. Once you do decide to seek help, treatment is available.

Purple hospital icon

12-Step Programs

Community-based support groups welcome people of all ages struggling with substance abuse. Many of these groups follow the 12-step model for treating addiction. Twelve step programs are self-help gatherings designed to help people overcome various addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two well-known support groups that abide by the 12-step model.

These programs provide a safe and judgment-free place for those with substance problems to talk about their struggles and listen to the stories of others who have battled addiction. By attending these meetings on a regular basis, individuals learn to embrace the philosophy of recovery and receive the encouragement of other members.

Stack of books with an apple on top icon

School Counseling

Many colleges offer substance abuse counseling. University counselors provide a confidential outlet that allows students to address their problems with drugs or alcohol. Developing a bond with a school counselor may motivate you to seek treatment.

If you need help and do not know where to turn, reach out to your campus administration and ask about the availability of counseling. You may also find this information on your school’s website.

Treatment Centers

When drugs or alcohol control your life, contact a rehab facility. If your problem is starting to cause you distress or you suspect that someone close to you is dealing with a substance use disorder, professional treatment is necessary.

Rehab facilities offer a highly trained staff to oversee your treatment in a safe and controlled environment. This can include detoxification, therapy, counseling, medication and an aftercare plan suited to your needs.

Don’t think of a treatment center as a last resort. The sooner you treat your addiction and any co-occurring disorders, the sooner you can get back on track to a healthy and happy life.

Succeeding Without Substances

College can be the best years of your life, but substance abuse can hinder your potential. Don’t let drugs or alcohol ruin your college experience. You can have fun and fit in without abusing substances.

Avoid the life-threatening risks associated with substance abuse by acting responsibly and educating yourself about drugs and alcohol.

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