Substance Misuse in College Students

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Most college students would agree that there are positive and negative aspects to college life. There are freshmen who are making their first major transition away from family and friends by attending college. The novelty of college life can be both exciting and terrifying. The reality is that not every new experience will be beneficial. Substantial amounts of alcohol and drugs are frequently consumed on college campuses. Many people’s first experiences with drugs and alcohol occur in college. In fact, we’ll go as far as to say that substance misuse in college students is heavily promoted as well. Let’s take a look at just how common it is.

How common is substance misuse in college students?

About one-third of American college students aged 18 to 24 who participated in the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported engaging in binge drinking within the previous month. In 2019, roughly 20 percent of all college-aged adults reported using an illegal drug such as heroin, cocaine, crack, or a hallucinogen like LSD. It is also common for people to abuse legal substances. Luckily, there are many addiction solutions Florida available.

substance abuse in college students at a party
Substance misuse in college students is even more common than you may imagine.

It’s important to distinguish between drug use and drug abuse. Misuse and abuse of drugs relate to repeated, non-medical drug use despite knowing the potential risks to one’s physical, mental, and social well-being. The question of whether or not college students are more prone to engage in drug misuse than their similarly aged non-college counterparts has yielded contradictory findings among researchers. Heavy drinking and binge drinking are popular college activities, especially among members of fraternities and sororities. Here is a list of substances college students are most exposed to.

What substances are college students most likely to abuse?

Depending on their friends, dormitory, and general atmosphere, college students may be able to get their hands on a variety of narcotics. Since substance misuse in college students is so common, you should be wary of all of the negative effects these substances can have on your life.


There is easy access to alcoholic beverages across North America, despite the relatively low legal drinking ages of 19 in Canada and 21 in the United States. Full-time college students 1 to 4 years after high school graduation not only have the greatest incidence of yearly consumption (and the lowest perceived risk) of everyone in the population, but they also have the lowest risk perception of drinking. Fraternity and sorority members and students who drank frequently as adolescents are at increased risk for developing alcohol use disorders. Alcohol is the most often reported substance used by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) survey respondents (54.8%), and it is also the most widely reported substance used in the last month.

Consuming alcohol is associated with an increased risk of more than 200 different acute and chronic illnesses, injuries, and ailments. Alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, various types of cancer, and drunken accidents all make the list of the most common causes of death worldwide. The mental health of students is also negatively impacted by alcohol abuse, which has been linked to an increase in depression symptoms, suicide attempts, self-harm, and aggressive acts.

E-cigarettes and tobacco

Between 2020 and 2022, the percentage of college students who reported ever vaping increased from 26% to 36%. The rate of growth in the number of people who vape slowed to a crawl in 2022, with the number of lifetime users increasing by almost 5% from 2019. For a variety of reasons, including convenience, perceived low risk, and the allure of flavored e-cigarettes in comparison to other smoking methods, e-cigarettes have gained popularity among college students. The use of electronic cigarettes is linked to the same unfavorable health outcomes as traditional tobacco use. There is a correlation between nicotine use during adolescence and later addiction and negative outcomes in terms of brain development.

a man vaping
Vaping is one of the most common forms of substance misuse in college students.


In 2022, the prevalence of marijuana use skyrocketed. Cannabis is allowed for recreational use in Canada and 18 U.S. states. Students in higher education are in a developmental stage where they are more vulnerable to the behavioral consequences of chronic cannabis usage. Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is more likely to occur in those who began using cannabis regularly in their teenage years. Common marijuana usage has also been linked to academic problems in college, such as lower GPAs, longer drops out of high school, and more instances of not showing up for class.

For the first time in the previous 30 years, those aged 18 to 30 had the lowest perceived risk for using marijuana on occasion, and this trend has persisted throughout the past decade. Full-time college students show a somewhat greater incidence of yearly cannabis use compared to noncollege students in the first four years following high school. Although more than 40% of adults in both categories report using cannabis at least once in the last year. Cannabis usage was much greater among males than among women on most measures (30-day use, daily use, etc.). Living alone, experiencing recent traumatic life events, and relying on cannabis as a coping mechanism are all risk factors for CUD.

Cocaine and amphetamines

University students are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of cocaine and other stimulants like prescription stimulants and methamphetamine. In 2016, it was found that 4% of full-time college students had used cocaine in the previous 12 months. 1.4% had used cocaine in the previous month. And 20% had been exposed to chances to use of cocaine in the previous 12 months. More and more college students are going into crack cocaine rehab. However, cocaine isn’t the only stimulant used by college students; dextroamphetamine, a legal stimulant used to improve memory and focus, is also popular.

a woman warming up cocaine on a spoon
Cocaine and amphetamines are very harmful to the young college students.

Prescription stimulant usage has risen, and so has tolerance for their use. Between 0.9% and 2.6% of people between the ages of 19 and 30 use methylphenidate (Ritalin), whereas 7.6% of people between the ages of 19 and 30 use combined amphetamine salts (Adderall) for nonmedical purposes every year.


College students may potentially be at risk from benzodiazepine usage. In recent decades, benzodiazepine consumption has grown, notably for recreational uses. Non-medical benzodiazepine use was 3% among college students and 3.4% among those without a college degree in 2019. This means that 3.7% of people aged 19–30 reported using benzodiazepines for nonmedical purposes in 2019. Misuse of the benzodiazepine Xanax (“Xans”), widely used among the college population, has increased during the previous decade. Prescription drugs can be just as addictive as cocaine or alcohol. And if you do get addicted to them, it is advisable that you go through a Florida prescription drug addiction treatments and get that sorted out as soon as possible.

The temptation for high school pupils to try this substance has likely grown due to the media exposure it has received from celebrities. Many students who don’t suffer from anxiety or depression nonetheless partake because of the sedative and relaxing effects of being high. College students who try to manage their anxiety by self-medicating with benzodiazepines without a doctor’s prescription face a problem due to the drug’s addictive tendency. In recent years, there have been multiple reports of college students overdosing on Adderall or Xanax. If you are struggling with this kind of addiction, we strongly recommend looking into Adderall addiction treatment. Misusing benzodiazepines raises the likelihood of dependence and long-term usage, as well as the adverse effects of abrupt discontinuation, including severe withdrawal and convulsions.

Contributing factors for substance misuse in college students

There are many factors to consider when discussing substance misuse in college students. Here are only the most common ones.

1. Societal Influence and cultural standards

Many first-year students find the transition to college life challenging since they are experiencing many new things for the first time, including more independence and, maybe, increased drug exposure. Their natural curiosity might encourage them to attempt and experiment with drugs, especially if they are interested in the new possibilities that have opened up to them. And the easy availability of drugs and booze at college parties just adds to the mystique. There may also be peer pressure to try out new substances, which might increase the likelihood that freshmen will do so. The medications often give the user a false sense of self-assurance and alter their impression of how others regard them.

Drugs and alcohol are widely available on college campuses because of the widespread acceptance of their use. By the end of their senior year, two-thirds of college students will have been provided some form of prescription medication without ever having to ask for it. An overwhelming majority (74%) of first-time college students reported being given marijuana during their time there, and 54% of those students ultimately used it. Around 36% of college students are given cocaine by the time they graduate, and 13% of those people use it.

2. The Greek life

Substance misuse is far more common among members of sororities and fraternities, according to research. The initiations and hazing that many sororities and fraternities subject their new members to may be to blame for this link. Many students succumb to the peer temptation to experiment with drugs when involved in Greek life. Four out of five students involved in Greek life become binge drinkers. Compared to only two out of five students who are not involved in Greek life. Alcohol and drug experimentation, as well as illicit drug usage, are all possible outcomes of communal living with minimal oversight.  Researchers discovered that while marijuana use was similar amongst fraternities and sororities, students in fraternities were more likely to consume illicit substances like LSD and cocaine.

substance abuse in college students at a party
College students in sororities and fraternities are more prone to substance abuse.

3. Party culture

Many students are introduced to drugs through the party scene. College students play a lot of drinking games, which can easily escalate to dangerous situations like alcohol poisoning because of their widespread popularity. When it comes to college party drugs, ecstasy is by far the most popular choice.  It’s common during parties for people to try out new combinations of drugs and booze. More individuals mean more opportunities to try new things, which might lead to drug experimentation.

What insurance company is best for substance abuse issues?

The United States has a very low recovery rate for those struggling with substance misuse. Multiple obstacles stand in the way of someone seeking treatment for drug misuse. It’s common to hear that financial concerns prevent people from getting the care they need. When dealing with the complex nature of drug addiction, it is very uncommon for patients to require inpatient care for a period of time throughout their rehabilitation. Nonetheless, medical insurance policies frequently provide coverage for substance misuse rehabilitation programs.


In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The primary intent of the law was to strike a balance between the requirements of employers in the contemporary economy and those of employees and their families. Does FMLA cover substance abuse treatment? Absolutely, they offer full coverage for this kind of treatment.


The Department of Defense’s health insurance program for active-duty service members and their families is known as Tricare. Coverage for mental health services is comprehensive and extends from preventative care to hospitalization under these plans. But does Tricare cover rehab? Yes. This curriculum addresses well over a hundred distinct medical issues.

a doctor holding chocolate money
Many insurance companies cover for substance misuse in college students.


Aetna provides a wide range of medical coverage choices for people and their families. It’s a fantastic resource for mental health treatment. But does Aetna cover drug rehab? Yes, it does. In recent years, a lot of resources have been devoted to it.


Another well-known insurer is Cigna. However, does Cigna cover alcohol rehab? Cigna does provide treatment services for persons recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Blue Cross Blue Shield:

Inexpensive and comprehensive health insurance plans are provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield. Does Blue Cross Blue Shield cover drug rehab? Individuals have access to comprehensive medical services. This medical insurance company is well aware of the common substance misuse in college students and they are doing whatever they can to help them finance their recoveries. Mental health concerns including depression and anxiety are also covered.

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