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School Safety Topics

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Four out of five college students drink alcohol. That's no surprise, but the type and frequency of use of other substances has varied throughout the years. And it is a complex issue. While young people ages 18 to 24 are already at a heightened risk of addiction, full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Understanding the Issue

Misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs by college students is a major health and safety issue on campuses. A culture of abuse combined with the availability of a range of substances results in health concerns, academic consequences and other harmful side effects for the individual as well as the community.

  • Why are college students prone to abusing alcohol and drugs?
    A number of factors converge to account for high rates of substance abuse in colleges:
    • Freedom. College students are eager to spread their wings and experiment. Unfortunately, it can lead to higher frequency of partying and drug use. In fact, college has become so synonymous with drinking, partying and drugs, many people are inclined to accept it, including many college administrators. Hazing is too often an infamous part of Greek life, and it typically includes drinking or other drugs.
    • Stress. The flip side of the new-found freedom that college students experience is the stress that comes from academic demands, deadlines, jobs and other obligations. Drugs and alcohol can be seen as a way to cope or unwind, and some students turn to stimulants to help them stay awake.
    • Body Image. Certain types of drugs can be tempting to students who are looking to regulate their weight, despite the fact that such drugs may be harmful.
    • Peer pressure. The age-old reason. College students can be influenced by other people's use of recreational and performance-enhancing drugs so that they are more likely to experiment themselves.
  • How prevalent is college drinking? And why is it such a problem?
    College drinking is extremely widespread:
    • About four out of five college students drink alcohol.
    • About half of college students who drink, also consume alcohol through binge drinking.
    Each year, drinking affects college students, as well as college communities, and families. The consequences of drinking include:
    • Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
    • Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
    • Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
    • Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
    • Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.
    • Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.
  • What is binge drinking particularly harmful?
    From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including—
    • Unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning)
    • Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence)
    • Alcohol poisoning
    • Sexually transmitted diseases
    • Unintended pregnancy
    • Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
    • High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
    • Liver disease
    • Neurological damage
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Poor control of diabetes