Substance Use Disorder in College Students: Understanding The Issue

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According to the Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are around 9 million college students, aged 18 years or older, within the United States. That same research shows that 9.9 percent of them drank for their first time during the previous year. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), around 1,825  substance use disorder in college students cases, between ages 18 and 24, die from alcohol-related injuries such as motor vehicle accidents and another 696,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. Substance use disorder in college students is no new problem, but perhaps there are new solutions that can prevent students from substance use disorder or help them get sober before the problem spirals out of control.

Why Substance Use Disorder in College Students Remains a Problem

To best remedy the problem of substance use disorder in college students it is helpful to understand why college students are abusing drugs and alcohol. Substance use disorder in college students could be common because alcohol or drugs are readily available on college campuses. Some students are peer pressured into using drugs or alcohol at college parties or to “fit in” and end up addicted when they were simply trying to be accepted socially. Substance use disorder in college students could also be common because many students go to college and it is their first time with no parental supervision, this could be problematic for someone who grew up in a strict home where partying was never an option. They go to school have freedom and are quickly engulfed in the college partying atmosphere. For many, simply the pressures of today’s society and to succeed in college is enough to turn them to the bottle or drugs to cope with the stresses of modern college life. Knowing these issues beforehand could better prepare a student to find constructive or healthy ways to deal with these issues rather than turning to substances. When we understand why substance use disorder in college students is occurring we can better prevent the problem from ever happening

Substance Use Disorder in College Students

College students can abuse any drug that is available but the most popular two continue to be stimulants and marijuana. According to Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse in the Workplace, there are rising rates of prescription drug abuse, particularly stimulants, among college students studying. Adderall was the most common of all the drugs that were abused. The use of these drugs, often utilized to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, have not been the reasons students have been abusing these drugs. Many college students abuse Adderall and other substance like it so they can study better or write better papers.

Marijuana, according to the University of Michigan, has become the drug of choice on many college campuses for students, passing the daily use of cigarettes in 2014. The rate of daily marijuana use was 5.9 percent in 2014, which is the highest number since 1980. The debate continues on the legalization and potential medical benefits of the drug. Whether someone is abusing alcohol or drugs, the perils of substance use disorder remain high and not something that is easy to turn away from while living the college campus life.

The Consequences of Substance Use Disorder in College Students

While the problem of substance use disorder continues to pose a threat to college campuses and the students living on them, the consequences for the person abusing the drugs or alcohol are the most severe. NIH states that students that consumed alcohol three times each week were six times likelier to do badly on a test because of drinking. They were also five times likelier to miss one of their classes. Around 20 percent of college students might struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Other consequences of alcohol substance use disorder among college students include the following:

  • Health Problems
  • Suicide Attempts
  • Unsafe Sex
  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Failing Grades
  • Attendance Issues
  • Property Damage
  • Vandalism
  • Legal Trouble

The abuse of drugs and alcohol can also lead to a number of physical effects and can create major physical and mental health problems in the future. None of these consequences are good for college students seeking to get a degree that could help them move toward their dreams. Ending the substance use disorder before it spirals out of control is the best solution.

Accepting Addiction Treatment for College Students

Accepting the fact that you have an addiction is not the easiest thing to do, especially while in college. Many students feel drug or alcohol use is natural in college and use this to rationalize their substance use disorder as normal behavior. Some students may be apprehensive about going to rehab because they feel that it will set them back from graduating on time. Although this is a valid thought, missing a semester and coming back with a clear mind is better than getting low grades or failing courses entirely as you struggle with your substance use disorder problem. For some college students, going to treatment instead of pushing through college while struggling with an addiction can be the deciding factor when determining if the student will graduate or drop out.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorder in College Students

For many, inpatient rehab is a great way to begin your addiction recovery journey. You will go through a detox period to safely remove the drugs and alcohol from your system while avoiding any medical complications. After detox, patients get to work with various addiction treatment professionals to learn about addiction and discuss personal problems one-on-one with a licensed therapist. Patients will also have the chance to participate in group therapy and learn about sober support groups to utilize after treatment.

Inpatient rehab provides patients with a security from drug triggers and cravings during early recovery because they are removed from accessing these substances. Getting sober on your own is difficult because the cravings can be so intense during the first few weeks that many people relapse and can not manage to stay clean. Going to an inpatient rehab allows patients enough time to get the drugs out of their system, learn ways to deal with triggers/cravings and removes them from access to drugs and alcohol during early stages of recovery.

Outpatient Rehab is a viable option for certain situations. Outpatient addiction treatment requires the patients to show up every night during the week for addiction education, one-on-one counseling and group therapy. Outpatient rehab is a great way to continue your schooling and begin treating your addiction but patients are susceptible to relapse because they go home every night where they continue to have access to drugs and alcohol. Although it sounds ideal because you continue your schooling, outpatient rehab better serves as an aftercare solution for people returning from inpatient rehab and integrating back into society.

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Treatment Styles While in Rehab

There are different styles of addiction treatment to consider while deciding on a rehab. Some rehab centers serve a specific demographic such as rehab for men or rehab for women, while others separate by age. It could be beneficial to find a treatment center that has a program geared to young adults. The main styles to consider when looking for the right center are as follows:

  • Holistic Addiction Treatment – Natural healing of the body mind and spirit. Spirituality, not religion is the focus.
  • 12 Step Addiction Treatment – Most popular form of addiction treatment and support groups.
  • SMART Recovery Program– A popular non 12 step addiction treatment meaning Self Management and Recovery Training.
  • Non 12 Step Addiction Treatment – No mention of faith, religion or the 12 steps.
  • Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment – Professional Psych team to evaluate patients for any other mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, PTSD etc.

For more information on these treatment styles, you can contact us any time of the day for a no-obligation conversation about your situation. Substance abuse in college students does not always have to be treated the same, what works well for someone else may not resonate with a different person. It is important to take personality into consideration when discussing treatment options for substance abuse in college students

Substance Abuse in College Students: Paying for Treatment

Rehab is not always expensive as some may think. In fact, if you are a college student it is likely that you will still be under your parent’s insurance policy. With insurance, your rehab visit could possibly be covered at 100% with no out of pocket expenses. Every situation is different when you call us we can work with you and your insurance company to assure you are receiving the best treatment for the least out of pocket cost. There is absolutely no obligation when you call and gain information about your insurance coverage.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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