Why Do College Kids Experiment With Drugs?

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Statistics on Drug Abuse Across America

The War on Drugs in this country right now is very real. Drug use has no limits as to who it affects. It affects every race, gender, religion, age, social class, etc. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, as of 2022, 50% of people age 12 and older have used illicit drugs at least once. There have been nearly 700K drug overdose deaths in the United States since 2000, and the federal budget for drug control in 2020 was $35 billion.

Drug Use Among College Age Kids is Common

School is starting and drugs are now more accessible than ever. If you are the parent of a college student, you should be aware of the risks and temptations that your child could be faced with.

Going off to school at a University is full of new emotions, experiences, and firsts. Being away from friends and family for the first time and your student’s first opportunity to live an independent life can be a stressful experience. Many students really struggle with trying to balance the responsibilities that are present in college. For this reason, it is not uncommon for new students to experiment with drugs.

Popular Reasons Why College Students Take Drugs

There are different reasons why college kids give for using drugs. In fact, the reasons they give are as diverse as the substances available to them.

  • Stress Relief – College kids face a lot of stress due to the high demands of school work, trying to work jobs, and internships, along with maintaining some sort of social life. They can become overwhelmed very easily trying to balance these responsibilities.
  • Curiosity – College is a time for self-discovery. Many college kids think they should explore as many different professional and personal realms as possible. Some young men report using drugs just to see how it feels.
  • Peer Pressure – Peer pressure is a huge reason why college kids experiment with drugs. They want to be accepted especially if they are in a fraternity or sorority. Fraternities and sororities can offer some positivity and give the student the feeling of having a family, but drinking and drug abuse can be a big part of some of the Greek life on campus.
  • Academic Workload – Many college students report taking stimulants like Adderall to help them focus on hard coursework, stay on track, and also stay awake to study. A lot of them don’t realize how addictive stimulants are and the dangerous adverse effects of them on one’s health.

There is no denying that mental health issues are a huge reason why people use drugs. The late teens and early twenties are when various mental health problems like anxiety and depression can arise. Those that unknowingly are suffering can turn to drugs to numb the emotional pain, so mental illness is a big contributor to why college kids experiment with drugs.

Commonly Abused Drugs Amongst College Students

Many people associate college with alcohol, but weed and several different other substances are also commonly abused on college campuses.

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens
  • Prescription drugs (stimulants, depressants, and narcotics)
  • Over-the-counter drugs

Many students engage in polysubstance abuse. This is where different drugs are combined together or taken with alcohol. Polysubstance abuse is dangerous and increases the chances of alcohol poisoning, seizures, coma, addiction, and overdose.

How Do You Know If a College Kid is Experimenting With Drugs?

Even though your son or daughter is away from home, you have to be vigilant in watching for signs that they may be struggling. Poor class attendance, lowering grades, and a decreased interest in school can all be signs that something may be going on. Mental illness can be a big factor in play here, but a lot of times that does go hand-in-hand with substance abuse.

Pay attention to your student. Are they withdrawing or prioritizing social activities over their academics? They could be being pressured socially which is also a big contributing factor.

Some students that may be abusing prescription medications have been known to come home with unidentified bottles of pills. If you find something like this, talk to your son or daughter. The best thing to do is to not accuse them of anything, but keep an open line of healthy communication so they know they can come to you.

Addiction Treatment Services for College Students

Is your college kid having issues with substance abuse? There is help available with plenty of NJ drug rehab centers throughout the state that can assist college-age men and women. New Jersey Addiction Interventions has addiction specialists that can help you and your family stage an intervention to convince your loved one to seek professional help. Our solution-based techniques are innovative and will help guide your loved one to the best facility to meet their needs individually. We are here to help you every step of the way. If you need help, please contact us today for an assessment.

Medically Reviewed: October 13, 2022

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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