College Students and Addiction

As August begins, college students are beginning the process of going back to school. It can be an exciting experience, especially for new students! For the first time, they’ll be living on their own and working toward the beginning of the rest of their lives. They’ll be learning new things, joining clubs and organizations, and experiencing a new sense of freedom and independence. But that said, it can also be stressful and overwhelming, as they gear up to move into a new place with new people. As a parent, it’s important to speak with your children about finding healthy coping mechanisms in order to combat that stress and anxiety. Especially because oftentimes, college students find themselves in the midst of substance abuse disorders as a method of relieving some of this emotional burden.


Did you know that “those who are enrolled in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who don’t attend college?” Social anxieties, the temptation to drink and routinely experiment with drugs – not all college students turn to substance abuse, but there are many reasons why it happens. Stress is the biggest factor. As students struggle to juggle coursework, internships, and social obligations, some find themselves using drugs to cope with the pressure.

Curiosity often serves as a factor as well. With exploring new aspects of their lives, learning new things, meeting new people, college is a major time of self-discovery. Sometimes, drugs can are a part of that self-exploration. And coupled with curiosity is peer pressure. College students are surrounded by people experimenting with recreational drugs and alcohol. Often this makes college students want to try substances themselves.

The Warning Signs

The first thing a parent should know are the warning signs of substance abuse. There are some specific signs that a college student could be having a drug or alcohol problem. A drop in grades, mood swings, and questionable hygiene and appearance are pretty general potential symptoms but could easily be missed if your college student is far enough away. The most obvious two are unexplained financial difficulties and an inability to make contact.

As a college student, it’s normal to have very little money. You should have a general idea of how much money they should have, whether they have a part-time job or you’re their only source of income. If you find that your college student is asking for money too frequently, or money is unexpectedly missing, you might find that your student has been spending money on illicit substances. Additionally, if your son or daughter suddenly becomes difficult to reach or avoids spending time with their family, that might mean they are hiding a substance abuse disorder.

How to Help

If you find that your college student is experiencing a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to do what you can to help them work through it. Immediate action is necessary so that they don’t go further down this path. Reach out to your child and maintain a clear dialogue with them. If you find that you need help in getting through to them, contact a therapist or medical professional to intervene. It’s difficult to do this alone, but it’s important that you remain hopeful. Help your child take responsibility for their actions and seek help. Discuss treatment options with a professional to determine what is best for your family and stick with it. Help your child take their life back.

Getting involved in the prevention of substance abuse is the best way to stop it in its tracks. Talk to your children about the dangers of using drugs. Be honest, clear, and transparent about the risk of using drugs and “why some people, especially young people, are particularly vulnerable to addiction.” Communication is definitely the most important thing here.