Young adults entering college are embarking on new, unknown territory. Students who take up residence on college campuses may have left structured, secure home environments to enter a world where their own decisions will either make or break their ability to succeed in college. This new environment makes college students -aged 18 to 26- particularly susceptible to substance abuse problems.

Fortunately, friends and family can help by staying alert for telltale signs that a student may be struggling with substance abuse issues. Students affected by substance abuse can get help through detoxification and recovery programs.

Causes of Substance Abuse

College life grants students a new form of freedom that brings with it a new level of responsibility. While learning and achieving remain the primary objectives, students must also contend with forming new relationships inside what may be considered a competitive environment. Add to this Hollywood’s depiction of college life as a wild party scene and many students may find themselves unsure of their identities within a college environment.

When faced with these insecurities, students can easily turn to alcohol and drugs to find a sought after relief from rising fears and anxieties. While partying and having fun may be necessary in terms of letting off steam or relaxing from the pressures of coursework, many students engaged in substance abuse do so to relieve feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty.

At the start, students may attend a couple parties where alcohol or drugs are introduced. After awhile, socializing with peers becomes associated with using drugs and consuming alcohol and so the addiction takes root. This pattern may also carry long-term risks of alcoholism and/or drug addiction that lasts years after a student leaves the college environment.

Telltale Signs

Substance abuse, and alcohol abuse in particular, represent a national problem - with nearly 14 million Americans (one in every thirteen) suffering with an alcohol problem. When comparing males and females, males are most likely to struggle with alcohol-related problems with the highest numbers occurring among males aged 18 to 29. With the added pressures of college life, this places college-age males at an increased risk.

Students engaging in substance abuse exhibit certain telltale signs that may become apparent to parents and friends. As ongoing alcohol and drug consumption tends to weaken a person’s mental acuity, students engaged in these behaviors may start to have problems keeping up with their coursework. Academic problems, such as failing classes, missing classes or a drop in grades may indicate substance abuse problems.

Both alcohol and drugs are known for their effects on the body’s overall health when consumed on a frequent basis. Students who start to develop health problems, such as weight loss, pallid skin coloring or chronic fatigue may also be affected by excessive drug and/or alcohol use. Health-related effects can also take the form of psychological problems, such as depression or even prior suicide attempts.


Students engaged in long-term alcohol or drug use should undergo a comprehensive treatment approach to have the best chance at recovery. A full service residential chemical dependency program offers a step-by-step process involving detoxification and recovery. Detoxification is designed for people who develop an actual physical addiction to alcohol or drugs. This stage works to clean all traces of substances out of body.

Any long-term treatment approach must start with detoxification or else the body’s addiction to alcohol and drugs will overpower any attempts at recovery. Some students may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, cold chills and vomiting during the detoxification process. When necessary, a full service chemical dependency program will prescribe medications, such as naltrexone and methadone to help ease the effects from withdrawal symptoms.


During the course of a college student’s drinking period, the mind –as well as the body- develops a dependency on alcohol and drugs. For most students, a physical addiction to alcohol or drugs is accompanied by a psychological component. Chemical dependency treatment programs offer rehabilitation treatment as part of a person’s recovery process.

A full service residential chemical dependency program provides recovery treatment that’s designed to equip college students with the skills needed to cope with daily life issues. This stage may use a behavioral therapy approach where students learn to identify unhealthy behaviors and replace them with healthy more productive activities. Ongoing recovery plans may include attending Alcoholics and/or Narcotics Anonymous meetings to provide a long-term support system for students as they re-enter normal life.