College can be a great experience. For many, this is a time of growth, learning, and evolving into the adult you are going to become. It is a time for making new friends, new hobbies, and trying new things. College serves as a transitional period, if you will, between young adulthood and a more mature version of you.

Unfortunately, for many, college can involve experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. As you are exposed to new people, places, and situations, you can be tempted to try drugs or alcohol. Peer pressure can be very powerful, particularly for college-aged students. For some, substance use may remain recreational or occasional. For many, however, this can spiral out of control quickly and become a problem. With no ill intent, you can end up trying to balance college courses while battling drug or alcohol addiction.

How the Problem Starts

What causes college students to begin using drugs or drinking? Is it a rebellious streak itching to get out after years of living under your parents’ roof? Maybe it begins with a harmless effort to fit in at a party or a moment of desperation after flunking an impossible exam. While reasons may vary, a few common causes could be new friend groups or influences, the stress of school itself, or the financial difficulties that often accompany this chapter of life.

New Influences

Attending college can be a huge adjustment. Many are just moving out of their parents’ house and are experiencing their first taste of real independence. Now being surrounded by tons of new people and a new way of life, college students are eager to exercise their newfound freedom.

Often desperate to make new friends and feel a sense of belonging, college students can be easily influenced by those they hope to connect with. Parties are in full swing, and drugs and alcohol are almost always accessible.

School Stress

College can be very stressful. Coursework is harder, the workload is larger, and tests are more difficult. College professors are far less likely to be concerned about student success. This means, for the most part, college students are responsible for their own success or failure. This pressure can be overwhelming, causing many to engage in drinking or drug use in an attempt to relax.

Financial Struggles

Have you heard the phrase “broke college student?” There is often some truth to this. College students are typically unable to work full-time jobs, or not well-paying ones at least. While working to earn a degree, most college students work part-time jobs in service industries, retail, or other entry-level positions, usually earning just enough to scrape by.

Often, jobs are short-lived or inconsistent, leaving students struggling to make ends meet. A diet of ramen noodles and Pop Tarts becomes all too familiar. When combined with the stress of attending classes and actually passing them, financial stress can lead to substance use in an attempt to escape.

Challenges and Risks

Addiction in college students has increased significantly over the last decade. With substances becoming more accessible and more widely used, students who struggle with substance abuse are missing out on the college experience they could otherwise have.

Drug or alcohol use among college students is associated with various challenges. These can include lower grades, higher rates of unemployment during and after college, and an increased risk of sexual assault. Many battling addiction struggle with focus and do not get quality sleep. As a result, class attendance lessens and priorities shift.

College students are also more likely to continue to use substances and have their misuse reinforced by the prevalence and acceptance of drugs and alcohol in this setting. As stated by Justine W. Welsh, M.D., Yujia Shentu, M.S., and Dana B. Sarvey, M.D. in the psychiatry journal Focus, “One of the most significant challenges with addressing substance use on college campuses is related to its history of integration into the normative tradition and fabric of the college experience.” Take Greek life, for example. Most sororities and fraternities incorporate alcohol, at least, into every event or activity. This makes substance abuse that much more likely for those involved in these groups.

Tips for Avoiding Substance Abuse

While avoiding exposure to alcohol or other substances during college can be difficult. There are a few things you can do to decrease your vulnerability. A few tips for avoiding substance use in college include:

  • Choosing friends who are positive influences
  • Staying focused on your goals
  • Budgeting
  • Practicing self-care
  • Developing healthy habits
  • Prioritizing wellness and nutrition
  • Hobbies

College is meant to be a positive, memorable time. Battling addiction while in college not only takes away from your experience but also results in less learning, less positive friendships, and less personal growth. Going to college is a privilege and is an opportunity to make the most of.

College students can be particularly vulnerable to substance use and addiction. They are often excited about their new level of independence and eager to try new things. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol have become increasingly prevalent on college campuses, making substances easily accessible to anyone interested. Addiction takes so much away from the college experience and can result in wasted time, money, and effort. If you are a student struggling with substance abuse, consider seeking help to avoid missing out on what could be some of the most important years of your life. Enlightened Solutions offers a variety of treatment programs and services with a holistic approach. Let us help you get back on track so you are able to re-assess your priorities and reach your goals. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE.