The 5 Most Abused Substances On College Campuses

Abused Substances | Just Believe Recovery PA

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The 5 Most Abused Substances On College Campuses

College is traditionally known as much for a time of experimentation as it is learning. While experimentation with drugs and alcohol seems relatively normal for this age group, problems occur when use becomes abuse or outright addiction. According to recent statistics, these are currently the most abused substances on college campuses.


Due to its legality and availability, alcohol in its various forms is undoubtedly among the most abused substances. Behold the statistics:

  • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 80% of college students reportedly drink alcohol. And of those, about half consume alcohol via binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one time).
  • More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem.
  • Around 1800 college students between 18-24 are killed due to unintentional alcohol-related injuries. Also, over 690,000 students are assaulted by another who had been drinking.
  • And more than 97,000 students are victims of sexual assault or date rape related to alcohol use.


It’s not just cigarettes, either. In recent years, hookah lounges have become popular, as well as cigars.

  • According to recent study, 1/3 of students said they had used a tobacco product in the past months.
  • Twenty-three percent said they had smoke a cigar in the last year, and 9% were current cigar smokers.
  • Men and women smoke cigarettes in equal numbers, but because men tend to smoke cigars and chew tobacco more often, the percentage of male tobacco users is higher overall.


Marijuana may not be physically addictive, but it can be habitually addictive. Regular use has been known to decrease motivation and hamper academic efforts.

  • In 1994, daily marijuana usage was reported by only 1 in 50 students. By 2013, that number has reached 1 in 20.
  • 36% of all college students admit to consuming marijuana in the last 30 days.
  • 47% of all students admit to trying weed at least once
  • Since the early, the potency of marijuana has tripled. The more potent the drug, the greater likelihood that the user will develop a psychological/habitual addiction.

Prescription Drugs

The most commonly abused substances by students also include prescription drugs, which fall into two general categories: painkillers and stimulants.

Painkillers include opioid narcotics such as Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin, and Norco. They are most often recreationally abused rather than used for actual pain relief.

  • 11.3% of college students report having used prescription painkillers.
  • According to a recent study, 16% of all college-aged persons (whether or not attending college) admitted to having used painkillers not prescribed to them.

Stimulants commonly used include Adderall and Ritalin. These drugs are indicated for ADHD, but students use them to stay awake during long periods for academic purposes, as well as increased energy. They may also be used recreationally at clubs and concerts.

  • Experts estimate that almost one-third of prescription-only stimulants are being used by those who don’t have an actual prescription.
  • Among current college students, some reports reveal as many as 44% admit to abusing stimulants to study and improve academic performance, and 31% abuse it in effort to stay awake.


MDMA used and abused by college students in different forms, including Molly and Ecstasy. Also in a category called “club drugs”, these drugs are known for their euphoric effects, including increased energy and well-being.

It is believed that at least 5% of college students regularly use MDMA. While not physically addictive, use can result in overdose, and include the following negative side effects:

  • Anxiety and aggression
  • Irritability
  • Sadness/depression
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

No matter what age you are, abusing substances can be harmful and potentially deadly. Drug and alcohol use of any kind can also negatively affect academics and social life.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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