5 Simple Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse in College Students

Drug and alcohol abuse is a major concern in today’s society, particularly among college students. College students are at high risk for substance abuse due to unique stresses and pressures, such as academic demands, financial strain, social isolation, and peer pressure. The repercussions of substance abuse in college students can be severe, including academic failure, physical and mental health problems, legal issues, and social isolation. It’s important for colleges and universities to recognize the prevalence of substance abuse on college campuses and look for ways to not only address but prevent it from occurring. Better Addiction Care shares 10 ways to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among college students as well as how we can help those in need find the right kind of treatment.

Binge Drinking & Alcoholism in College Students

Binge drinking and alcoholism are two significant and common problems among college students. Binge drinking is defined as consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period (usually two hours) with the goal of getting drunk. Binge drinking is also defined by a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is when this level is brought up to 0.08% or more within 2 hours or less.

Additionally, binge drinking is slightly different among men and women. For instance, binge drinking corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks in males or 4 or more drinks in females within about 2 hours.

College binge drinking has been a problem for years and continues to trouble educators and healthcare providers alike. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 27.4% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 reported past-month binge drinking.

On the other hand, alcoholism is a chronic disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, the inability to control drinking, and the development of physical dependence. Alcoholism is a serious and progressive condition that can have long-term effects on the person’s physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.

According to the same 2021 study, 49.3% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, a problem that has likely progressed since then. College students who engage in binge drinking are at a higher risk of developing alcoholism. Considering how common this issue is, colleges and universities must provide support and resources for students battling alcohol-related issues to get help.

College Students & Drugs

While going to college has been considered a protective factor against the development of substance use disorders in the path, substance abuse has become one of the most common health problems on college campuses in the U.S. within the past few decades. One study showed that nearly half of 946 college students who were followed from freshman to junior year met the criteria for at least one type of substance use disorder.

In addition to alcohol, other common types of addiction in college students include addiction to stimulants (such as Adderall and cocaine), cannabis, MDMA, and opioids. It’s common for college students who are struggling to keep up with the academic and extracurricular demands of college on a poor sleep schedule to turn to stimulants or “uppers” to keep them awake and alert.

Cannabis is also a common substance abuse of choice, mainly for recreational use. Marijuana is known for its relaxing properties, which is why it’s a common drug among stressed-out college students.

MDMA and LSD are among the various club drugs abused by college and university students, as they are highly common in club and party scenes. Considering that partying is a major aspect of college life for many students, it’s no surprise that these are some of the most abused substances among students.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the opioid epidemic has pushed narcotics onto college campuses, as well. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young adults ages 18 to 25 report the highest past-year opioid use of all age groups. Considering that the risk for opioid use disorders commonly begins during adolescence and young adulthood, it’s no surprise that college students are struggling.

5 Simple Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse Among College Students

Substance use among college students is associated with numerous negative outcomes, including reduced academic performance, increased risk of unemployment after graduation, and a higher probability of committing and experiencing sexual assault. Several risk factors for substance use are specific to this demographic, including an affiliation with Greek life, a perception of high academic pressure, and peer pressure.

College students who engage in substance abuse also face unique challenges in planning treatment, including aspects of confidentiality, financial constraints, and potential university oversight and involvement.

While there’s much to unwrap, we wanted to start with five simple ways to prevent substance abuse in college students:

  • Education and awareness campaigns: Providing students with accurate information about the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse can help them make informed decisions, prevent them from dangerous experimenting, and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.
  • Peer-led interventions: Peer-led interventions, such as peer mentoring and peer education programs, can create a supportive environment, encourage healthy behaviors, and encourage students in need of addiction treatment to get help.
  • Environmental strategies: Implementing policies such as limiting the availability of alcohol on campus, enforcing substance use-related laws, and creating safe and healthy social events can reduce the opportunities for drug and alcohol abuse on college campuses.
  • Screening and interventions: Screening and brief addiction interventions can identify students who are at risk for substance abuse and provide them with resources and support.
  • Counseling and treatment: Providing access to counseling and substance abuse treatment services can help students who are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and prevent them from developing more serious problems.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction and doesn’t know where to start treatment, our drug rehab directory can help. BAC offers a free online national rehab directory that helps users find a treatment facility that meets their needs based on location, insurance, and services.

Managed by experts in the substance abuse field, our national directory of drug and alcohol abuse treatment facilities is here to help you or a loved one get sober. For more information about our services or to verify your insurance for addiction treatment, call Better Addiction Care today at 800-429-7690.


  1. NIH – College Drinking
  2. NIH – Substance Use Among College Students
  3. SAMHSA – Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
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