Around the country, at popular universities, college-aged adults expect to party and socialize around alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, binge drinking and drug use are more than popular: it’s glamorized, often with severely negative results. American college culture has a major drinking and drug use glamorization problem, and it needs to end quickly before more people become hurt.
The Prevalence of Drinking and Drug Use on College Campuses
It’s natural – and certainly expected – for young adults to take a few risks here and there. It’s also common for college students to drink among friends. However, excessive drinking and drug use have become much more problematic and prevalent on college campuses across America, ranging from universities in Arizona to major schools in New York City and Metro areas like Chicago to local or smaller colleges in states like Montana and Texas.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2016 report on substance abuse among college students, more than 30% of full-time students1 participated in binge drinking over the month prior to the survey. Other statistics showcase similar troubling trends:
- 20% of students used an illicit drug over the last month
- Approximately 1300 full-time students tried an illicit drug for the first time in college on an average day
- Approximately 2200 full-time students tried alcohol for the first time in college on an average day
The report culminates in another major statistic: on an average day in colleges around America, 1.2 million students drink alcohol, and over 700,000 use marijuana.
Binge drinking, in particular, is one of the most common types of substance abuse among college students. A 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2 indicated that approximately 35% of surveyed students who drank alcohol in the last month also binge drank. Binge drinking means consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion for men or consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion for women.
Commonly Abused Drugs on College Campuses
College students abuse many of the most common drugs because of their accessibility. The most commonly abused drugs include:
- Alcohol is typically consumed as beer or wine. However, hard liquor is also commonly consumed. Hard liquor can be more dangerous to inexperienced college students because it delivers a massive amount of alcohol to the body quickly.
- Marijuana, the use of which has increased over the last few years. The American Public Health Association indicates that one in five college students3 become first-time users of marijuana in college.
- Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin. These are normally prescribed to individuals with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But the ease of acquiring these drugs has made them easy to abuse.
- Cocaine, which is popularly used in fraternities and sororities
- Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax. Xanax is commonly prescribed throughout the US, which makes it easy for college students to get access to.
Many of these drugs are acquired through a prescription or through a deal made on the street. Even alcohol, which requires an ID to purchase, is easy to acquire for most college students. They may acquire alcohol through their friends or purchase a fake ID with which to purchase alcohol themselves.
Why are Drinking and Drug Use Common Among College Students?
If asked individually, college students may provide any number of reasons as to why they drink and use drugs, especially in worrying quantities or situations. However, deeper analysis indicates that there are three primary reasons why underage drinking and drug use are common among college-aged individuals.
If one person starts drinking, it’s more likely that another will follow. Peer pressure is a major social force that every college student feels. College students may want to fit in or attend a party where “everyone is doing it.” Peer pressure can lead some college students to make unwise choices in pursuing popularity, especially if they have recently arrived in a new place and don’t have many friends.
It’s also true that college students are under a lot of stress. Schoolwork, job responsibilities, and familial obligations can combine into a stressful storm that makes heavy drinking or drug abuse seem attractive at the moment. College students under a lot of stress are more likely to abuse drugs or binge drink than others.
However, some college students may drink and use drugs primarily out of curiosity. If they didn’t have the opportunity to use drugs or try alcohol at home, they might take the chance at college when they first experience newfound freedom and can easily access substances, illicit or otherwise.
The Glamorization of Binge Drinking and Drug Use
That doesn’t explain why binge drinking and drug use or abuse is so common among college students. It’s partially due to the glamorization of drinking and drug use, which itself is due to two primary factors.
America has a cultural drinking problem. Many college students grow up in households where their parents drink every night, oftentimes in high quantities. Thus, they may grow up in environments where binge drinking is normal and even expected. Drinking or drug use is sometimes further tied to ideas about toxic masculinity or adulthood.
Even among adults who consider themselves moderate drinkers, drinking more than recommended is very common. Adults often use alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate or manage stress. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately one in four adults4 use alcohol to manage their stress. This number spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, social media usage has increased5 in recent years, also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media makes it easy for students to feel left behind, left out, or less popular than their peers. Because social media is so omnipresent, college students are often inspired to drink or try drugs because of behaviors demonstrated on social media platforms, like binge drinking at a party where everyone is having a good time.
However, social media is an active deception in the majority of cases. It does not always demonstrate true social feelings or behaviors. Nevertheless, social media use and addiction are tied to college students’ binge drinking and drug use.
Holistic Healing at Silver Sands Recovery
It can be difficult to bounce back from a culture or lifestyle emphasizing heavy drinking and drug use. However, it’s an important step for every college-aged individual to take. If you or someone you know needs help healing and recovering, Silver Sands Recovery a leading alcohol and drug rehab center in Arizona can give that help.
We offer holistic healing treatments that emphasize clean living and positive lifestyle habits. A healthy body, mind, and soul have the strength to resist peer pressure and cultural factors that put people at risk of binge drinking and drug abuse in the first place. Sports, hiking, golf, and other activities are available to patients to help them learn how to lead fulfilling, happy lives without using substances.
With our help, your life will improve in more ways than one. Contact Silver Sands Recovery today to learn how to build a healthy living regimen in recovery.
About the author:
Lisa Waknin is the Founder and Director of Silver Sands Recovery, located in Prescott, Arizona. Lisa started Silver Sands Recovery after immersing herself in the addiction treatment world for several years to figure out what could be done differently to help her daughter and others like her to overcome addiction and stay sober. She believes in a hands-on treatment approach, which includes taking someone out of their environment, providing a 90-day program in a structured environment. During treatment, clients not only recover physically but also learn to live their life again. Lisa is a sought-after expert speaker for recovery support groups, charities, schools, communities, and companies wanting to educate themselves on the explosion of opiate and heroin abuse in our country and the best way to understand, treat, and beat it.