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The 5 Most Commonly Abused Drugs of College Students

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25 Jan The 5 Most Commonly Abused Drugs of College Students

Most Abused Drugs of College Students

College is a brave new world for students freed from the strict supervision of their parents and reveling in new-found freedom. Yet it is a double-edged sword: US college campuses are flush with drugs. Often students test the limits of their independence and are exposed to peer pressure to join the party.

One national survey showed that a whopping half of full-time college students binge-drink, and abuse prescription drugs and/or illicit drugs[1]. There are many exacerbating factors driving that high number, including the new stresses of college life, study pressure, a culture of drug use, and the sheer availability of legal and illicit drugs.

In the case of ‘smart’ drugs for college, students have shown themselves willing to compromise their health in order to complete assignments. Many resort to what they consider the best pills for study, obtained illegally and often through a network of friends, that are used to stay up all night to meet academic deadlines.

Temptation abounds and students are curious and impressionable. It makes for a potent cocktail for experimentation with the following most abused drugs on campus.

1. Alcohol

This is the most popular and ubiquitous of the most abused drugs on campus. Because alcohol is so synonymous with college life itself, there is a cultural blind spot to the devastating effects of abuse and booze-fuelled behavior. With 60 percent of students on campus drinking and among those, almost two-thirds having reported binge-drinking[2] (especially prevalent among fraternities and sororities), alcohol is virtually a college institution at campus parties, sporting events and offsite at so-called ‘campus bars’. As well as alcohol being a risk factor for violence, injury and accident, the impaired decision-making it engenders can lead to other drug use.

2. Prescription stimulants

Adderall and Ritalin are regarded as the best pills for studying as students seek synthetic assistance to increase their focus during exam weeks and when deadlines are pressing. These prescription drugs were designed to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy but have become increasingly popular as an illegal study aid to help with heavy course loads. An underground market for these smart drugs for college flourishes on campus. With human brains continuing to develop into the 20s and 30s, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, research is suggestive that ‘smart’ drugs may cause long-term damage to nerve activity and memory[3].

3. Marijuana

Bud, grass, weed, pot, ganja … whatever you call it, marijuana sits alongside alcohol as a college staple of the most abused drugs. As legislation across the country changes, marijuana is growing as a drug of choice among students seeking a high or to relax amid the frenetic pressures of college life. However, marijuana use comes with impairment-related risks, especially with students getting behind the wheel under the influence. Evidence suggests decreased levels of attention, memory and learning among habitual users with consequences for their academic performance and even their prospects of finishing college.[4]

4. Ecstasy

Known as MDMA or ‘molly’, ecstasy is the most popular party drug at raves and music festivals. Providing a surge of dopamine that promotes feelings of wellbeing and euphoria, ecstasy’s dark side results in a flood of visits to the emergency room during music events. The symptoms of overdose include a rise in body heat and heart rate, dizziness, and vomiting. An overdose of ecstasy, one of the most abused drugs among students, can even lead to death by heart or kidney failure. The come-down for the drug is also severe, with the potential for self-harm rising with the depression that many report experiencing in the wake of coming off ecstasy.

5. Cocaine

For students experimenting with the most abused drugs on campus, there is a tendency to underestimate the addictive power of cocaine. Tolerance is developed quickly, leading to needing more and more cocaine to continue feeling the short-burst euphoria and sociability it promotes. Put simply, it is a recipe for disaster. Cocaine is enjoying an upsurge in popularity among students out of step with its use in society generally. This may be due to its reputation as a club drug. Among its adverse effects are convulsions, paranoia, and cardiac arrest. It’s most sinister effect may be to set up students for addiction long after they have left college.

[1] The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

[2] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

[3] Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, “Performance enhancement at the cost of potential brain plasticity”, May 2014

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse

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