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College and Substance Use Disorder

College is an exciting time, full of new places, new people, new ideas, and new experiences. College is also the first place that most people are completely in control of their lives. It can be hard to balance freedom with responsibility, especially when students are under pressure to get high marks, have fun, and work. College is also the time when many people start to use substances like alcohol, cannabis, Adderall, or psychotropic substances like LSD.

Why College Kids Try Illicit Substances?

There can be a lot of different reasons that college students start using drugs. Many young people start feeling the stress of college early. They may not make friends quickly, which makes them feel lonely. They may experience homesickness and miss their old friends. The coursework is often much harder than that of high school, and college students often feel overwhelmed as a result. To help cope with these big life changes, some students turn to alcohol or other drugs. These substances can provide temporary relief, but they don’t fix the heart of the problem. Other reasons college students start using include the following.


Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, extreme changes in personality, and sometimes anxiety. It is fairly common among college students. Even so, it is a leading cause of death among those students. In a recent study of 67,000 college students, 20% will attempt to injure themselves. When students are not sure where to get help, they often turn to self-medicating with substances that are readily available.

Competition Culture and Anxiety

Anxiety is a disorder characterized by extreme worry or fear that impacts your daily life. There are different types of anxiety diagnoses like health anxiety, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, or panic disorder. Ambitious students in college tend to feel high levels of competition with their peers. They are all vying for opportunities to put on their application for graduate school, hoping to get an internship, or looking to get a work/study position. The constant pressure put on these young adults is the perfect environment for them to develop anxiety disorders.

Peer pressure is strong in college communities, and many students give into it. At parties, students can try drugs and alcohol with their peers cheering them on. This can lead to cycles of binge drinking or substance use.

How Many Students Try Detrimental Substances?

According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 9.9% of full-time students tried alcohol and 6% tried other detrimental substances for the first time within the past year. This translates to about 2,200 students between 18-22 trying alcohol for the first time every day and about 1,400 students trying detrimental substances for the first time each day.

The survey also shows that almost 60% of students drank alcohol within the last month, and 3.5 million reporting binge drinking patterns. Nearly two million students used other detrimental substances within the last month.

What Substances Do College Students Try?

Students can try any drug they come into contact with. Listed are the most common drugs on college campuses.


Since alcohol is legal, it is one of the most common drugs on campus. Alcohol is usually consumed as a drink. It blocks receptors in the brain, causing a euphoric effect.

It also causes confusion, aggression, and slurred speech, which can affect balance and inhibition. Long-term use can result in liver damage, heart damage, cancer, thinning bones, and damage to the pancreas. It is also possible to die from acute alcohol consumption.


Cannabis is a plant. People smoke its flowers, which are rich in a compound called THC. This is the compound responsible for the relaxed, happy feeling called a high.

There are many effects of cannabis on the brain and body. For example, impaired judgment is common. Interestingly, cannabis can decrease or increase the feeling of anxiety and depression. Increased heart rate is another common side effect. It can also create changes in your brain that create problems with memory and concentration.


This is a prescription medicine usually given to people with ADHD. It is a nervous system stimulant that increases concentration and focus. This substance is popular among students who feel stressed and competitive. Overuse can cause hallucinations, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, circulatory system problems, and numbness.


Cocaine is usually snorted through the nose. Cocaine produces feelings of euphoria, paranoia, low blood pressure, and muscle spasms. Long-term use can burn holes in the nose tissues and cause lung damage. It can also reduce cognitive abilities.


These substances cause euphoric effects accompanied by vivid hallucinations. There are many types of hallucinogens each with their particular effects. They can also cause despair, anxiety, mood swings, increased heart rate, delusions, and seizures.

What Are Universities Doing?

Schools and universities have been working to make treatment for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder more accessible. Campuses are including workshops about stress management and mental health free to students. They are also forming support groups for those who are struggling. The student health facilitators can either treat students or refer them for treatment.

Other organizations are working hard to combat this problem, too. SAMHSA has been running an alcohol awareness campaign aimed at opening clear communication between children and parents. This makes it easier for parents and their kids to talk about the dangers of alcohol use and detrimental substance use from an early age.

When to Get Help?

Getting help is often the hardest part. It is very common to have anxiety about getting help. It is even more common for people to think they will be turned away or even shamed for needing help. If you or someone you love is showing signs of a mood disorder or substance use, it is important to get help as soon as possible.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorder warning signs include sudden changes in daily habits like personal hygiene. Many people withdraw from their social circle. Some experience a drop in grades, and others may skip classes, work, or other responsibilities. They may also mention things like feeling tired, helpless, hopeless, or express feelings of losing their love for life. Some may also experience panic attacks, though it is important to note that not everyone experiences the same symptoms.

Substance Use Disorder

The warning signs of substance use disorder are numerous and include many of the same signs of mood disorders, like sudden changes in daily habits. They also include bloodshot eyes, physical convulsions, poor physical coordination, and unusual body odor.

How to Get Help?

Students on campus can go to their counselor, campus health aides, or their primary care doctor. For mild to moderate circumstances, your healthcare professional may refer you to mental health services. Your mental health provider may prescribe medication and refer you to a therapist. Medication and therapy combined have the best long-term health outcomes.

Especially with substance use disorder, it is very common to need inpatient treatment. This is because substance use disorder rarely affects someone without a mood disorder or other mental health challenges. Inpatient centers offer intensive daily therapy sessions. They also provide services that make it easier to quit using detrimental substances. One very helpful service is supervised medical detox.

The Granite House

The Granite House is an inpatient recovery center for those with substance use disorder. Located in beautiful Derry, NH, our facility is just a short drive from both Boston and Manchester. We offer a number of programs to help patients along their road to recovery.

Our program is aimed at giving people a chance to live a truly free life, without addiction and on the solid foundation of individualized therapy and evidence-based treatments. When you are admitted, you will need to answer some basic questions about your substance use. Immediately after admission, you will go through a supervised medical detox.

Detox is usually the most challenging part of recovery. Since this is supervised by a medical professional, we can offer medication that reduces the physical burden of detox. Because this method is much gentler on your body and mind, it sets you up to be ready to work on your recovery.

While inside our facility, you will participate in daily therapy sessions and chores. You will also get to take part in fun activities like movie nights and local day trips on the weekend. Another part of your treatment will be to participate in a 12-step program designed to help you tackle the underlying problems that influence substance use.

Intense therapy is there to help you understand what pushes you to use detrimental substances, and it will teach you healthier coping skills. This means that when you leave The Granite House, you will leave with the tools needed to effectively fight relapse. Despite everyone’s day looking very similar, the actual treatment plan for each person is different. You can choose a holistic path that suits you. Our facility offers several different types of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical therapy, and treatment for co-morbid disorders.

Post Rehabilitation

Once you complete your inpatient treatment, you can still find support. You can choose to move into a sober living house. This option is a good choice because to sustain your sobriety, it is necessary to eliminate the people who encouraged you to use and make new friends.

It is easier to do this in a sober living house because you have people on hand who can help you focus, support you in your times of need, and help you weed out the bad influences. While living in a sober living home, you only need to pay rent. If you are a student still in school or have other extenuating factors, you may be eligible for financial assistance with your rent.

College is an exciting time, but it is also incredibly stressful. Any stress can cause a person to develop a mood disorder and substance use disorders. Struggling with substance use disorder or watching someone you love struggle is one of the hardest things you can do. It is important to get help as soon as possible.

At The Granite House, we are here to help you or your loved ones. We are dedicated to supporting you in every way we can, from medical detox to daily therapy sessions and medication. We want you to feel fully in control of your recovery. For this reason, we offer several types of treatments. These include traditional therapy, medication combinations, and holistic treatments.

Get in touch to start your recovery today.

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