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Get The Facts

Today’s students are overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them, although, much of it can be misleading. Our goal is to share only the facts about alcohol and other drugs so that students and professionals alike can get the tools and knowledge needed to combat substance misuse on their campuses.


The underage and excessive use of alcohol causes the most widespread public health and safety problems among college students. Recent data from Monitoring the Future (2017) provides evidence that student-drinking rates have remained fairly steady over time. Regarding college students aged 18 to 24, it is estimated that:

College students are more likely to be heavy drinkers than their non-college peers.

College males are more likely to drink heavily than college females (37.5% vs. 33.3%). College males report higher rates of daily drinking than college females (3.7% vs 1.1%). College females have historically been known to drink less than their male peers. However, college females are engaging in heavy drinking at increasing levels.

High-risk drinking increases the likelihood of negative consequences for students—whether they drink or not.

Risks associated with heavy drinking include injury, assault/sexual violence, driving under the influence, unsafe sex, academic problems, alcohol dependence, legal problems, and even death. In addition to having a negative impact on students, high-risk and underage drinking also impacts residents and businesses in the communities surrounding campuses.


Cannabis, or marijuana, is the most commonly used drug other than alcohol on college campuses. Its use by college students has fluctuated over the past 30 years, dropping from a high in 1981 at 51.3% to a low in 1991 at 26.5%. The last decade has seen relatively stable use with rates holding between about 30-35% of students reporting past year use (Monitoring the Future (2017).

55.5% of all college students today have used an illicit drug at some time in their lives.

Roughly 42.5% reported using one or more such drugs in just the last 12 months (Monitoring the Future (2017).

Over 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing cannabis to be used for a variety of medical conditions.

Cannabis used for medicine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and continues to be illegal under Federal law.

Cannabis laws vary by state, although some local governments are passing ordinances prohibiting or restricting cannabis dispensaries in their communities. Legalization efforts in a few states appear to initially be impacting the rates of use and perception of risk among young people, including college students.

Rx Medications

There is a “perfect storm” for the misuse of medications in the United States. The three fronts of this storm are: (1) the drug-taking culture in which we live, (2) easy access to prescription medications, and (3) misperceptions of safety and legality when misusing prescription drugs. All of these demand attention in terms of substance misuse prevention as well as medication safety instruction among college students, because the statistics surrounding this phenomenon are of concern:

9.1% of students report using pain medications (e.g., OxyContin® and Vicodin®), 9.4% report using sedatives (e.g., Xanax® and Valium®), and 15.9% report using stimulants (e.g., Adderall® and Ritalin®) for non-medical reasons (College Prescription Drug Study, 2018).

18.9 million American’s (age 12 and older) reported misusing a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant or sedative in 2015 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health).

Young adults are at the mean age when prescription drug misuse begins – average age at first use: stimulants 22.3 years, pain relievers 25.8 years, tranquilizers 25.9 years, and sedatives 28.3 years (National Survey on Drug Use and Health).

 In 2017, more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in the U.S. were related to Opioids misuse. (CDC).

Rx drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States (CDC).


92% of students who are involved in a Collegiate Recovery Program maintain their recovery.

The average length of recovery for CRC member is 16 months (Laudet, 2013)

The mean age of a CRC member is 26 years old (Laudet, 2016)

Collegiate recovery has roots dating back to 1977 at Brown University

There are over 150 collegiate recovery programs and efforts across the country (Transforming Youth Recovery)

Collegiate recovery programs have a higher graduation rate than their institution (Laudet, 2013)

Other Drugs


Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, a natural substance that comes from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin appears as a white or brown powder, or black sticky substance (“black tar heroin”), and can be either injected, snorted or smoked.

It is highly addictive and associated with a number of serious health problems, including fatal overdose. Research suggests that prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin may lead to heroin abuse. Behavioral therapy and medications, such as buprenorphine and methadone, can be effective in helping individuals to stop using heroin.

For more information, please refer to the NIDA web site: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin


MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), better known as ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Users feel increased energy, emotional closeness and empathy for others, and sensory distortions due to how MDMA increases the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Recently, “Molly” has emerged as a supposedly more pure crystalline powder form of MDMA; however, the capsules sometimes include other drugs in addition to the MDMA. MDMA is often used in combination with alcohol or other drugs and may be putting the user at a much higher risk for adverse health consequences. The research is mixed on whether or not MDMA is addictive. However, some individuals report symptoms of dependence.

For more information, please refer to the NIDA web site: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasy-or-molly



Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant. It causes an increase in energy, euphoria, and raises blood pressure and heart rate. The powdered form can be snorted through the nose, while the rock crystal form, known as crack, can be smoked. The high achieved from using cocaine is relatively short, which can lead to repeated use to sustain the high. In addition to raising blood pressure and heart rate, using cocaine constricts blood vessels, causes headaches, decreases appetite, and can lead to irritability and anxiety.

Heart attacks and strokes are also possible, causing sudden death. Combining cocaine with other drugs—such as heroin—is dangerous and has a high risk of fatal overdose.

For more information, please refer to the NIDA web site: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

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