The Most Commonly Abused Drugs in College

College students are one of the most vulnerable groups to substance abuse and addiction for a variety of reasons.  College is often the first experience of freedom. Students are expected to act like adults, but many of them are still technically teenagers.  The transition to college can cause homesickness, social pressure, isolation, and stress from keeping up with demanding courses. Some students will turn to substances to cope with anxiety and overwhelming emotions.  With drug abuse comes a likelihood of addiction. Once a student becomes addicted to drugs, their academic and personal lives are likely to take a turn for the worse. Knowing which drugs are most commonly abused among college students and recognizing the symptoms of abuse may help to prevent addiction, as well as inform students and their loved ones about when to seek professional treatment for substance abuse. 


Alcohol is easily the most used and abused drug among college students.  Alcohol use is often thought of as a normal part of the college experience, and some students may feel that using alcohol is safer and more socially acceptable than doing drugs.  In actuality, alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug when used in excess. Many college students begin binge drinking as part of party culture, meaning drinking five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women.  Binge drinking is common during weekend celebrations, sporting events, and fraternity and sorority hazing for incoming freshmen. While some college students may be able to drink legally, younger, inexperienced students tend to be the most vulnerable to alcohol abuse.  Over time, alcohol abuse can lead to physical and mental health problems, including addiction.


Marijuana is an extremely popular drug among college-aged adults, and is often thought of as harmless and non-habit forming.  Marijuana use can lead to dependence, however, as well as a variety of adverse effects. Marijuana has been shown in studies to significantly impact focus, memory, and the ability to retain information.  This is not ideal for students that use marijuana on days when they have class or need to study. Marijuana use can decrease motivation and ambition, and eventually lead to poor academic performance. Although legal for use in some states, using marijuana and driving is still considered a dangerous crime.  Individuals who regularly use marijuana often find they experience unpleasant symptoms when they attempt to quit, such as anxiety and insomnia. These symptoms may be a sign of marijuana dependence.  


Cocaine is a highly addictive drug derived from the coca plant.  Using cocaine creates a feeling of euphoria, along with intense energy and alertness.  The effects of cocaine are relatively short-lived, and therefore the user must keep using to avoid the symptoms of an impending crash.  The come down from cocaine can cause severe anxiety and sleep issues. Despite being a relatively expensive drug, cocaine has remained popular as a party drug for college students over the past few decades.  Cocaine can have lifelong damaging effects on the brain, and often leads to addiction. A student addicted to cocaine may begin to neglect their studies and worry only about their next high. They may become extremely agitated and irritable, especially in between uses. Cocaine can also take a serious toll on finances, and young adults developing an addiction may begin coming to their parents with an unexplained need for cash.    


The use of MDMA as a party drug among college students has risen in recent years.  MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly, is used to create a sense of euphoria and provide energy that allows the user to party all night long.  These drugs are incredibly dangerous, especially because they are often laced with unknown additives. MDMA use can lead to panic attacks, hallucinations, dehydration, and heart failure.  These drugs are very addictive and the user is likely to build a tolerance. This means that every time an individual takes MDMA, they will need to take more than the time before to achieve the same effect.  This dangerous escalation increases the chance of death as a result of overdose. 

Prescription Pills

College students are especially vulnerable to developing addictions to prescription medications.  The recreational use of Adderall and Ritalin among college students has shot up in the last decade. These medications, also known as study drugs, are commonly purchased and used to improve focus and motivation for studying and exams.  While some students may have genuine prescriptions for these medications due to conditions such as ADHD, the pills are commonly stolen, gifted, or sold for illegal purposes. Because these pills contain amphetamines, they are considered to have a high potential for abuse and addiction.  Additionally, college students are susceptible to prescription pain pill addiction. These pills may be obtained through a doctor for a sports injury, or might be purchased on the street. They can provide a sense of euphoria and may also be used to improve mood if an individual is struggling with mental health issues.  These pills are also highly addictive, and can lead to serious physical and mental consequences.  


If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction, and their families.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at 972-962-7374