Alcohol and Drug Addiction in College Students: Causes, Consequences, and Recovery

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Graduation day is often the most exciting experience for high school students. Going to college is often marked by new freedoms they didn’t have before, and independence and opportunity to begin a journey of personal growth. For some students, the new freedom and independence can lead to experimentation with drugs, leading to potential addiction. 

Drug addiction in college students is a growing concern, and it has devastating consequences on their academic performance, health, and overall well-being. The best way to combat this epidemic among college students is to educate yourself on the causes, consequences, and recovery options available.

Many young adults struggle with alcohol addiction in college.

Commonly Abused Substances in College

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, a survey concluded that drug use between the ages of 18-25 totaled 39% and 86.4% of people over 18 or older reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime. The study also found that 70% of users who tried an illegal drug before the age of 13 were more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder within the next 7 years compared to 27% who tried an illegal drug after the age of 17.


Alcohol is perhaps the most widely abused substance on college campuses. It’s easily accessible, socially accepted, and often used as a means of relaxation and socialization. Binge drinking, a common practice among college students, can quickly lead to alcohol addiction. The stress of academic pressures and the desire to fit in socially can contribute to the excessive consumption of alcohol.


Marijuana is another frequently abused drug among college students. Its use has been on the rise due to changing attitudes and legalization in some states. While many view marijuana as a relatively harmless substance, heavy and chronic use can lead to addiction, impacting a student’s motivation, memory, and cognitive functions.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs, particularly stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, are often misused by college students to enhance academic performance or to stay awake for extended study sessions. The easy availability of these drugs, coupled with the pressure to excel academically, can lead to addiction.


Opioid addiction has become a nationwide crisis, and college students are not immune. Students may start using opioids recreationally or to cope with stress and anxiety. The highly addictive nature of opioids can quickly lead to physical and psychological dependence.

Isolation and peer pressure can contribute to drug or alcohol addiction.

Causes of Drug Addiction in College Students

On the journey of self-discovery, college students often look for ways to fit in or to perform to personal or implied standards. With drug addiction on the rise in campuses across the country, it is important to understand the most common causes of drug addiction in college students.

Peer Pressure

The desire to fit in and be socially accepted can lead college students to experiment with drugs, even if they initially have reservations. Peer pressure plays a significant role in encouraging drug use and increasing the risk of addiction.

Stress and Academic Pressure

The demands of college life, including coursework, exams, and the pressure to excel, can be overwhelming. Many students turn to drugs as a way to cope with stress and anxiety, believing that substances like stimulants or opioids will help them perform better or alleviate their emotional distress.

Mental Health Issues

College students often face mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. These issues can drive individuals to self-medicate with drugs, which can provide temporary relief but eventually worsen their mental health and lead to addiction.


The easy availability of drugs on college campuses can be a major factor in drug addiction among students. Alcohol is readily accessible, and prescription drugs are often shared or sold among peers, making it tempting for students to experiment.

Overcoming Addiction While Maintaining Student Status

Addiction in college students doesn’t have to be the end of their college career. Recovery is possible, even while still attending classes, making the grade, and socializing with peers – it can be more challenging, but not impossible. For college students who want to break the cycle of addiction and take the next step on a road of sobriety, there are options available.

Seek Professional Help

The first step in overcoming drug addiction is seeking professional help. Many colleges and universities have counseling services and support groups specifically designed to assist students struggling with substance abuse. Students should not hesitate to reach out to these resources to get the help they need.

Establish a Support System

Building a strong support system is crucial for recovery. College students can confide in friends, family members, and mentors who can provide emotional support and encouragement throughout the recovery process.

Explore Treatment Options

Rehabilitation programs and treatment centers can provide effective strategies for overcoming addiction. Students may need to take a temporary leave of absence to undergo treatment, but many colleges offer policies and resources to help facilitate this process.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Students should learn and practice healthier ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and academic pressure. Some ways they might do this include mindfulness techniques, regular exercise, and seeking therapy or counseling to address underlying mental health issues.

Avoid Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers that lead to drug use is essential to gaining and maintaining sobriety. This might involve distancing oneself from friends or situations that encourage substance abuse and finding healthier alternatives for socializing and relaxation.

Create a Structured Routine

Establishing a structured daily routine can help students stay focused on their recovery. It can also help them manage their time effectively and stay on top of their academic responsibilities.

Prioritize Academics

While recovering from addiction, students should prioritize their health but also remain committed to their academic goals. Communicating with professors and seeking academic accommodations, when necessary, can help students maintain their student status without compromising their recovery efforts.

Launch Centers Can Help Fight Addiction in College Students

With drug addiction in college students on the rise, it is important that they know there is someone who can help. Launch Centers is here to help college students navigate the path to sobriety and develop the healthy coping mechanisms needed to maintain it. Our experienced staff can help with finding the right strategies and offer a support system that helps overcome addiction while maintaining student status. For more information on our addiction programs, whether it is alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, or another addictive substance – contact us today!

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Joey

    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.

  • Ben

    This treatment facility has changed my life. I have always struggled with my mental health and this young adult program provided me with the necessary skills to launch to adulthood. I commend anyone who struggles with mental health or substance use (which was not me) to try this program out. It will change your life.

  • Conner

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me. I am very grateful that I was able to have such a wonderful experience with Launch.

  • Adam

    In no uncertain terms Launch Centers changed my life. The staff at Launch are professional, knowledgable and relatable. They keep the format diverse and interesting which kept me engaged in the process. The greatest thing we can do in life is seek to improve ourselves. Launch gave me a skill set I consider to be invaluable in the journey of becoming the best version of myself. I would implore anybody considering Launch to step outside their comfort zone and go, you will not regret it.


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