More than one million college students ages 18–22 drink alcohol every day, and about two million use illicit drugs every month, according to a new analysis of federal data. Long seen as a rite of passage or part of the college experience, drug and alcohol abuse among young college students continues to be a national health problem.
Researchers writing in the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality Report analyzed data from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to calculate how many 18- to 22-year-old college students used substances of abuse on an average day.
“As these youth enter adulthood, substance use appears common for many of them,” the authors of the report wrote. “More than one-third of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 engaged in binge drinking in the past month; about 1 in 5 used an illicit drug in the past month.”
Based on annual averages from 2011 to 2014, almost 10 percent of full-time college students ages 18–22 try alcohol for the first time every year, and about six percent try an illicit drug such as marijuana, cocaine or hallucinogens.
Underage drinking in college leads to about 1,800 deaths, 696,000 assault cases and 97,000 sexual assault cases every year, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism studies. Other alcohol statistics indicate that alcoholism is common among college students.
A quarter of college students experience academic declines because of drinking, and about 1.5 million students develop a substance use disorder.
“Substance use constitutes one of the most serious public health issues for young people in the United States, creating negative health, social and economic consequences for adolescents, their families, and communities, and for the nation as a whole,” the researchers wrote in the CBHSQ Report.
College Students’ Daily Alcohol and Drug Use
The authors categorized students as part-time or full-time, and reported the average number of students who consumed substances of abuse on an average day. There are more full-time students than part-time students, so comparing overall statistics is not worthwhile.
However, the researchers determined that on average full-time students drink more alcoholic drinks and binge drink more often than part-time students.