The Pattern of College Drug Use

Sep 3, 2018 | Binge Drinking, Blog, Co-occurring Disorders, Recovery, Youth Addiction Treatment

College is starting and drugs are more accessible than ever—read on to find out what freshmen and their families need to know about the temptations and the risks.

Why College Students Turn to Drugs


  • It is not uncommon for #freshmen to experiment with #drugs—and to lose control.
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September is here, school is back on, and freshmen are eagerly settling in to their first days at university. The first year at college is full of new experiences and emotions. Couple this with being away from family and friends for the first time, and it is not uncommon for ‘freshies’ to experiment with drugs—and to lose control. According to USA Today, at least half of the more than 5 million university students in the US say they binge drink or use drugs every month.

While it is easy to fall into a pattern of denial, The Edge maintains that the best hope for protecting a young man’s future is through parental involvement and support, especially during life transitions. As your son heads to university, we are here to help you understand the temptations he’s up against, and when you need to intervene so that he lives the life he deserves.

What Drugs Are Commonly Abused?

Not all substances abused by freshmen are illegal, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t harmful or addictive. So what drugs are college students using?


This should come as no surprise. Drinking is widely accepted at parties and gatherings on university campuses. Multiple studies suggest that at least four out of five students consume alcohol. One-third admit to binge drinking, or having at least four or five drinks in one sitting, which can put young people at risk for developing a dependence on alcohol. Heavy boozing is also linked to academic struggles.


Nearly half of American college students have tried pot and marijuana can become addictive. Being high can also lead to engaging in other risky behaviours.

Party Drugs

Cocaine and ecstasy, or MDMA, are also popular on university campuses, with the latter almost doubling in use among students over the last ten years. One of the dangers of these drugs—popular on the party and club scene—are the substances they can be mixed, or ‘cut’, with: household cleaning agents, toxins and medications.

Prescription Drugs

College students often have access to prescriptions intended for their peers—from Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat ADHD, to opioid painkillers. With widespread ‘sharing’ of these pills, more students than ever have access to them. Young people often experiment with Adderall to increase their focus and opioids to relax. These can be incredibly addictive substances, and just because they are legal does not mean they cannot be abused.

Concerned About Your Son?

Why do College Students Start Using Drugs?

The rationale freshmen give for using drugs are as diverse as the substances available to them. The top five reasons include:

  • Stress relief: Students face demands from their classes, from relationships and jobs, and often turn to drugs to cope.
  • To fit in: In an effort to be accepted, some young people abuse substances like alcohol, marijuana and stimulants.
  • Curiosity: As college is a time for self-discovery, some young men use drugs just to see how it feels, regardless of the dangers.
  • Self-medication: The late teens and early twenties are a time when mental health issues like depression and anxiety often arise, and those suffering sometimes turn to drugs to self-treat the emotional pain.
  • Party pressure: College is marked by the expectation that parties and social gatherings will be epically fun, and the pressure to make this a reality is so great that many students are willing to take risky substances—like cocaine and MDMA—that heighten their experience.

How Do You Know if Your Son is at Risk?

Even though he might be away from home, it’s important to be vigilant in watching for signs that a young man is struggling. While he may have initially been excited to start university, low grades, poor attendance and a decreased interest in school can be a sign that other issues are at play, like depression or substance abuse—and the two often are co-occurring.

Pay attention to changes in his social habits: is he withdrawing or repeatedly prioritising social activities over academic success? If so, these could be reactions to social pressure—a contributing factor in drug abuse.

Students who are abusing some medications have been known to come home with unidentified bottles of pills. If you find these, talk to your son—healthy communication can help combat these issues early enough that later problems can be avoided.

Get Help for Your Loved One

Ask for Help—For His Sake

You know your son better than anyone, and this doesn’t change just because he no longer lives at home. Once you’ve identified a problem with substance abuse, it is crucial to seek the help—young men are unlikely to do so on their own.

Help him by reaching out to professionals who know how to provide the support, structure and guidance tailored to young men like him. The Edge was created to both care for and challenge young men struggling with substance abuse and behavioural disorders at this pivotal point in their lives. Nestled in the mountains of northern Thailand, our world-class facilities—complete with Western-certified staff and evidence-based treatment methods—provides a much-needed escape from the pressures of university life. We attribute our 96 per cent completion rate to a winning combination of adventure learning, physical training, and integrative therapy.

Contact us to learn more about this chance to reset and redefine the path he’s on—one day, he’ll thank you for it.