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Drug Abuse and Addiction in College: What Every Family Should Know

Teen addiction

Do you ever wonder why some bright, talented, successful high school students go off to college and flounder, nosedive, and/or flunk out? There are several reasons why this happens, but one cause which does not get enough attention is drug abuse – or more specifically, the toll that addiction takes on a college student’s life.

It Could Be Their First Time

For starters, college is often the time of a teen’s life when he or she is introduced to drugs for the first time. According to the 2014 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), here are the average number of full-time college students per day who try these substances for the first time:

  • Any illicit drug: 1,326
  • Marijuana: 1,299
  • Hallucinogens: 649
  • Cocaine: 447
  • Methamphetamine: 39
  • Heroin: 19

Moreover, two out of every nine college students reported that they had used an illicit drug during the previous month.

Different Kinds of Drug Abuse

In addition to recreational enjoyment, there are other reasons why young adults turn to drugs while in college. For example, a National Institute on Drug Abuse study of drug use by college-age adults in 2016 found that almost one out of every ten students had taken Adderall within the past year. Adderall, a stimulant typically prescribed for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is commonly used by collegians so they can stay awake and study for long periods of time.

In addition, diet pill abuse is not uncommon on college campuses. Students of both genders take these pills in order to lose weight and maintain their physical appearances. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health states that as many as one in four college students has some type of eating disorder.

Finally, there is immense social pressure in college to experiment with illicit substances, and this compulsion is heightened in social groups like fraternities and sororities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, drug abuse is more common among fraternity and sorority members than their non-Greek peers.

Why Do They Start?

Peer pressure and academic-related stress are not the only reasons why college students begin abusing drugs. Other factors may include anxiety brought on by social situations like breakups, bullying, or overloaded schedules. 

Also, students who have been affected by problems at home frequently turn to drug use as an escape. These troubles can range from tension with parents or verbal abuse to trauma or physical abuse. And then there is a group of students who are simply overcome by curiosity and choose to experiment with substances that they did not have access to while in high school.

Teen addiction

Signs of College Drug Abuse

If you are a parent of a college student and are concerned that your son or daughter may be abusing drugs, here are some signs to watch for:

  • Sudden changes in weight or appearance
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Agitation or aggressive behavior
  • Isolation or a lack of motivation
  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor academic performance and/or missed classes
  • Interactions with law enforcement or the criminal justice system
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Evidence of self-harm or inclinations toward suicide

Should you suspect drug abuse, you should confront your son or daughter and perhaps try to obtain outside information on whether he or she is addicted to illicit substances (from friends, roommates, campus police, etc.). Then strongly encourage the student to seek out medical help or drug treatment, and do not hesitate to withhold tuition or other college-related funds until your son or daughter complies.

College can be a time of awakening and self-discovery for students as they take their first steps into adulthood. But for students who turn to drug abuse, the opportunities that college presents for them can grow further out of reach – and their lives will suffer as a result. So every family of a college student should remain vigilant in watching for signs of addiction or drug abuse.

Contact us for information on drug treatment or rehabilitation facilities for your loved one.

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