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Alcohol and Substance Abuse Among College Students


Substance abuse is a health condition that involves a misuse of substances. Most of the time, substance abuse is characterized by repeated use of substances that has become more intense. Substance abuse problems can vary from occasional and mild to long-term and have a significant negative effect on the person’s life. There are many different types of substance abuse. One of the most common is abusing alcohol (Ghasemian & Kumar, 2017). Alcohol is addictive because it is a depressant. A depressant is a drug that makes people feel a slower, drowsy feeling. People who become dependent on alcohol often get used to the low feeling of being drunk and may lose their ability to notice when they are feeling drowsy. The present report indicates that the common factors that lead to substance abuse among university students are high pressure in the academic setting, academic stress, low academic performance, poor relationships with friends, family, and the academic community, mental health issues, and social influences, and personality factors. These factors are associated with various levels of alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco use and can influence all other types of substance use.

Adolescents’ drinking behavior often is associated with early substance abuse, and college students are no exception. Many people in the college era enjoy life and all the advantages of being there. However, this is not the situation for every one of them. In some cases, they are victims of drugs and alcohol, because of which they are not getting what they are hoping for. When students abuse alcohol and other drugs, they often experience Short-term, long-term, and chronic consequences (Walters et al., 2018). Long-term effects can include damage to brain cells, liver damage, and even more serious conditions like alcoholism and drug addiction. Shorter-term effects of abuse can include insomnia, hallucinations, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, paranoia, and hallucinations. This can all be incredibly uncomfortable, especially when they’re in class. Chronic effects can include irritability, aggression, depression, and more. These may be uncomfortable but are also things we’d want to prepare for if they occur. And for this reason, it is vital to know what the effects of drug and alcohol abuse among college students are. Also, how they can deal with it. This is the purpose of the article.


The use of alcohol and other substances among university students has become a major health concern. In recent years, alcohol has been cited as the main substance consumed by students. Alcohol is one of the most common substances consumed by university students, and the majority of university students have experimented with alcohol in their lifetime (Ghasemian & Kumar, 2017). According to statistics from a study done by the National Center for Drug Abuse, one in eight adolescents and young adults abused alcohol and/or illicit drugs in the year 2020 (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2022). The study also found out that about 62 percent of twelfth graders have abused alcohol. In addition, approximately 50 percent of teenagers have misused drugs at least once. Approximately 40.9 % of college students in the U.S. experienced depression in Spring 2020, up from 35.7 % in Fall 2019. The figure below illustrates alcohol abuse among the youth in the U.S. throughout 2020.

Figure 1: Youth Alcohol Abuse

Youth Alcohol Abuse


The lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use for eighth through to twelfth graders in the U.S. is estimated to be 27% (Elfein, 2022). The prevalence of adolescent substance use has increased substantially in recent decades. According to National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (2022), drug use among the youth went up by 61% from 2016 to 2020.

Alcohol is more than just a social and drinking issue. Substance use among college students has become an issue of concern because of its long-term negative effects. Many studies have shown that alcohol abuse has resulted in significant negative consequences and can be fatal. According to WHO, alcohol use disorders are linked to more than 80 illnesses or conditions that include damage to the heart and brain, liver and pancreas damage, birth defects, and increased rates of injury and death (Sharma, 2019). According to Okafor (2019), Substance use by youth may lead to long-term and far-reaching consequences that can result in severe impairment of physical, mental, and social development, such as addiction, poor academic performance, poor mental health, and school dropout, leading to substance use becoming a significant risk factor in youth delinquency and deaths. The figure below his statistic depicts the predominance of specific substance abuse concerns among college students across the U.S.

Figure 2: Mental health and substance issues in U.S. college students Fall 2019-Spring 2020

Mental health and substance issues in U.S. college students Fall 2019-Spring 2020


Adolescent drug abuse disrupts academic performance; and, as a problem, is costly. Substance use is a major risk factor for lower educational achievement. Some of the reasons for this may be that alcohol and tobacco are commonly used by the young to mask symptoms of anxiety, and, as a result, their cognitive development can be impaired. Additionally, drug use and abuse often result in the development of serious health issues. Substance abuse in young people results in chronic medical problems that can be harmful and debilitating. These include the direct effects of smoking on the body (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, cancer, respiratory tract disorders) (Hj Ramli et al., 2018). Substance abuse is closely linked to depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and other psychiatric conditions. These may be triggered by stress or by a lack of motivation. This can cause the drug user to behave in a way that seems out of control. It can lead the person to not be aware of the damage being done to their body.

Peers and Family Relationships: The ability to establish and maintain close, positive friendships is a critical component of healthy development. Substance abuse frequently affects the ability to establish and maintain friendships (Okafor, 2019). For example, adolescents who are dependent on alcohol or other drugs are not only more likely to experience social problems but also have an increased risk of being rejected by their peers (Okafor, 2019). Other studies have shown that adolescents who use alcohol and other drugs are more likely to be excluded by their peers. They are also less likely to maintain their friendships with others. Also, substance abuse in young people can disrupt family relationships. This can have a significant negative impact on a young person’s ability to make positive choices. Adolescents who abuse alcohol and other drugs may have difficulty in their relationship with their parents (Hj Ramli et al., 2018).

Delinquency: Substance abusers often continue to use illegal drugs in combination with alcohol and other substances. This combination often leads to violent and crime-related activity. Substance abusers are at greater risk of committing property crimes, such as breaking and entering and vandalism. They are also more likely to commit drug-related offenses (e.g., trafficking, possession of drugs) (Hj Ramli et al., 2018). Young people who use drugs are more likely to be arrested and convicted than young people who do not. Further, drug abuse amongst college students indicates later-life substance abuse issues. Adolescents who begin using drugs at an early age and continue use into adulthood are more likely to be alcohol-dependent than those who begin using drugs at a later age (Okafor, 2019). This is subject to addiction, i.e., when a person has a physical dependence or withdrawal from a drug.

Difficulties in Coping

Substance use is a multifaceted problem. College students are often exposed to a wide variety of drugs and alcohol. It is therefore important to understand the many factors associated with college students’ exposure to alcohol and illicit drugs. A considerable amount of literature has indicated that both genetic and environmental factors are likely to be involved in the development of substance use disorders in adolescence and young adulthood. According to (Taremian et al., 2018), there are also many social, economic, and psychological factors that lead to problematic drinking among students. Family, social, and individual factors play a key role in the process of development and may contribute to future substance use behavior. Among these factors are loneliness and isolation, low socioeconomic status, and negative family and friend relations.

Substance abuse among fellow students (peer pressure) has been found to be a risk factor for college students to initiate substance use. College can really be pressuring. College students often perceive themselves as an “outsider” in society and are often faced with peer pressure to conform to mainstream values and accept societal norms (Whitesell et al., 2013). Therefore, peer pressure from “high” and “low” quality peers can significantly affect students’ decision to consume or not consume various substances. Low-quality friends may be those who have a history of substance use, exhibit aggressive or antisocial behavior or are engaging in risky behaviors. Conversely, high-quality friends have a better perspective on substance use and have healthier behaviors. Previous studies have shown that college students who perceive their friends as low quality, that is, as substance users are more likely to start using alcohol and illicit drugs.

Another factor that contributes to the risk for adolescent substance use is the accessibility of drugs and related paraphernalia. College life is often crowded with after-school leisure activities. Whitesell et al. (2013) note that Adolescents who are involved in leisure activities, such as after-school activities, have a higher risk of alcohol and cigarette use than adolescents who are not involved in after-school activities. The high association found in this study between easy access to drugs and the availability of alcoholic beverages found in other studies is consistent with the hypothesis that easy access is a major predictor of adolescent substance use. It is also possible that having easy access to drugs and alcohol is not a result of availability alone but also a result of the fact that they are made available at school.

A lack of self-control, willpower, and self-esteem: Drugs cause a person to lose their self-control, and they lose it because they enjoy the things that they are doing. So by the time you have lost your self-control, you have already begun abusing drugs. Your willpower is the energy that you have that is used to change your habits, and the one that is the only source of motivation is the drugs. The people who have abused the drugs lose their willpower. People who abuse drugs feel negative when they are in the presence of people, and they think that there is nobody to help them. Das et al. (2016) have demonstrated that family characteristics, such as the family history of addiction or alcohol-related legal problems, parenting skills, and family income, are associated with substance use and other forms of antisocial behavior in youth. Generally, as a college student, not only are you struggling to grow as a person, but you’re also dealing with social, emotional, and financial pressures while you juggle classes and a full-time job. However, these problems are not necessarily a new occurrence.


There are many types of interventions that colleges can employ to influence alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors. For instance, they can employ HRE, social marketing campaigns, screening and brief intervention programs, and comprehensive community-based prevention programs. The primary goals of these types of programs are to decrease alcohol-related problems, promote healthy behaviors, and reduce alcohol-related risks.

Social marketing campaigns (SMCs) are designed to stimulate interest and encourage participation in programs. Often they are a cost-effective way to reach many people simultaneously. The types of messages and the channels of delivery employed in a social marketing campaign are tailored to the specific needs of the target audience. One advantage of social marketing campaigns is that they can be focused on specific behaviors and provide information and skills to engage and promote healthy behavior change. Another advantage is that social marketing campaigns are a relatively new means for improving health, and they are not constrained by time and place limitations. They can be implemented at schools, universities, and communities across the world.

Taremian et al. (2018) note that colleges can employ mass media campaigns to alter alcohol-related attitudes. This can be done via social media and various print media outlets. This may take the form of educational messages about the negative consequences of alcohol, with information about safe drinking and the dangers of drinking before driving. In many colleges, campus councils provide educational opportunities for students to discuss alcohol problems and to provide a source of help in prevention programs. In other colleges, programs are available to teach students how to identify students who may have alcohol problems and to take steps to get help for these students. Students who consume alcohol frequently can benefit from health and risk education, which seeks to correct misconceptions about alcohol and provide guidance to alcohol-using students. In addition, schools are required to provide resources and programs to assist alcohol-using students, maintain an open and inviting environment, and prevent alcohol-related problems.

The second campaign colleges can do to have policies that promote responsible drinking. Colleges should develop a culture that encourages responsibility rather than just discouraging drunkenness. According to Weinstock et al. (2017), these policies should include, but not be limited to, the following: Encouraging students to become involved in activities that encourage responsible drinking. Helping students develop or maintain good health habits. Providing opportunities for students to gain experience and education related to drug and alcohol abuse. Making students aware of the problem of alcohol abuse and encouraging them to seek help. Helping students develop a support network of friends and family members who encourage them to be responsible drinkers.

The main principle behind comprehensive community-based prevention programs is that alcohol-related problems are influenced by the community as a whole rather than by specific groups and that communities can take steps to change the social norms and environments that support problems (Weinstock et al., 2017). These comprehensive programs focus on social environments that support drinking. For example, a drinking-venue program is designed to prevent high-risk drinking by restricting the availability of alcoholic beverages in public settings. A problem-behavior-change-centers program aims to reduce alcohol-related problems by promoting social responsibility and creating safe and supportive environments.

According to Das et al. (2016), colleges should intensify school counseling. A significant number of people with mental health problems and substance abuse problems will require the aid of professionals (e.g., physicians, therapists, psychiatrists, counselors) who are specially trained to diagnose and treat these conditions. These services include assessing, treating, monitoring, and following up on clients as needed to help them to recover from addiction. Substance abuse treatment can include counseling, relapse prevention training, family therapy, medication counseling, and more. Also, colleges can make their campuses as alcohol-free as possible. This might call for restrictions on bars. It would make sense for a college campus, as a place of learning, to be a sober place. According to Wendt et al. (2017), limiting the closeness of pubs and liquor stores to campuses is one strategy to reduce abusive and adolescent drinking. Alcohol-related fatalities are more likely in locations where drink promotions are heavily publicized, particularly when targeting college students.

My Opinion

Alcohol and substance abuse are two of the most prevalent behaviors among college students. These patterns of use and abuse begin during the pre-college years and often continue into college. Extensive research has been done in this field. Alcohol use among college students was significantly associated with academic pressure, family economic background, and peer pressure, among others. The most important thing to do in preventing alcohol abuse among college students is to educate and warn them of the dangers. Colleges can make their students aware of peer pressure, alcoholism, addiction, and legal problems associated with alcohol use. It is best for colleges to discourage or even forbid the sale of alcoholic beverages on their campus. Students, parents, and administrators have a collective responsibility for student alcohol-related behavior. Schools must take the issue of campus drinking seriously and work with students, parents, and the general community to take action against excessive drinking. Colleges must promote the health and safety of students and provide clear and comprehensive guidance about drinking at parties while also considering how the drinking behavior of the student body affects the student population as a whole.


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