Starting college is an exciting time and an opportunity for self-discovery. As many young adults experiment and explore, too many turn to substances like benzodiazepines, Xanax, Valium, Adderall and other drugs.
Addictions can quickly develop in the college years and research shows that substance use early in life can lead to major issues with addiction down the road according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In this article, we’ll explore the prevalence of drugs in colleges and the problems it creates, as well as signs of addiction so you can get help for yourself or someone you know.
Addiction in college students
Drugs in colleges and universities are almost a staple of the party life that young people picture. Sadly, addiction and substance use disorders are rampant on college campuses.
The following statistics on drugs in college in 2019 were reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Roughly one in nine college students reported daily use of marijuana
- An estimated 15.5 percent of college students used nicotine vaping devices, up from 6.1 percent in 2018
- Prescription benzodiazepines and opioids were misused by 2.7 percent of college students
- 8.1 percent of college students misused Adderall
Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 231,000 college students have an alcohol use disorder by the age of 21.
Both drug and alcohol use disorders carry numerous negative consequences. The journal Focus states that substance abuse correlates with outcomes such as lower academic performance, a higher likelihood of unemployment post-graduation and an increased risk of committing and experiencing sexual assault.
The same journal states that a few risk factors increase the likelihood of the occurrence of a substance use disorder: affiliation with Greek life, a perception of high-stakes pressure in regards to academics and social pressure to use drugs or alcohol.
Substance use among college students is both prevalent and serious. The consequences could be life-altering.
Commonly abused drugs
Some drugs are more popular on college campuses than others. Here are a few notable drugs of choice:
An estimated 27.4 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 participated in binge drinking in the past month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
According to the American Addiction Centers, marijuana is the second most commonly abused drug among college and university students, second to alcohol.
Benzodiazepines, often abbreviated “benzos” are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. The Harvard Medical School states that 63 percent of college students experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. As anxiety spikes during this high-pressure phase of life, many young people are prescribed benzodiazepines.
A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that some schools had a rate of benzodiazepine misuse as high as 20 percent.
Xanax is one of the most common forms of benzodiazepines, and Xanax abuse is common among young people to help alleviate social anxiety or induce feelings of relaxation or euphoria.
Like Xanax, Valium is another common prescription benzodiazepine used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Valium abuse is serious and can result in paranoia or suicidal ideation. Valium abuse can also result in issues with memory and coordination and can be lethal when combined with other substances.
Many Americans are aware of the current opioid epidemic sweeping across the country. There is also a lesser-known epidemic of benzodiazepine use, particularly among college-aged youth.
Benzodiazepines are perceived to help students deal with school-related anxieties and are prevalent at parties. Some discover that when benzos are mixed with opioids or alcohol, the effects are much stronger.
Some college students may be given legal prescriptions for benzodiazepines in order to help with sleeplessness, anxiety or symptoms of depression. Others may decide to purchase Benzos illegally to get high or enhance the high by using opioids.
Using opioids and benzos together decreases heart rate and breathing, increasing the risk of overdose, coma and death.
Signs of addiction
There is a high prevalence of drugs in college. So much so, that many young people dismiss their drug dependency as a “normal thing to do.” Moreover, college students may not be aware of when recreational use of a substance becomes an addiction.
Here are signs of an addiction to look for, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Feeling the urge to use a drug regularly (sometimes multiple times a day)
- Struggling to think about anything besides drugs when a craving occurs
- Needing larger amounts of the drug to feel the same effects over time (tolerance)
- Worrying about your supply of the drug or how you will get your next fix
- Spending money or making risky decisions to obtain and use the drug
- Experiencing issues in college (academics, mental health and social relationships) due to substance use
- Missing commitments such as classes, exams, labs, study groups, etc
- Continued use of a drug despite the harm it causes
- Doing things you wouldn’t normally do under the influence of the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms in between uses
Drug use that begins on a casual basis in college can often escalate into a full-fledged substance use disorder.
Treatment for college students
Attending college is a privilege and a unique opportunity and there are many reasons why some students refrain from seeking treatment. Some may fear the social repercussions of admitting that substance use has spiraled out of control. Others feel that taking time away from studies would be a waste of money and the experience of college.
Addiction in college students may go untreated because those who struggle with it don’t know where to turn, whether their substance use warrants intervention or what resources are available. If you or someone you know is struggling with problematic drinking or drug use, your best bet is to reach out for a free assessment.
Silvermist Recovery can assist you or a friend in getting the care you need no matter your life circumstances. Reach out today to learn about individualized treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health issues.