Student substance abuse remains an increasing issue among colleges and universities across the United States, including at Ivy League and other highly competitive private schools.

While it may be common knowledge that college students are abusing alcohol and marijuana as their rite of passage into adulthood, there has been an increase since the 1990s of prescription drugs for both stimulants and opioids.

Students are using drugs like adderall to enhance their studying, but are also showing patterns of using prescription drugs such as Xanax or OxyContin to calm their nerves and escape their daily stress. As schools try to spread awareness on student substance abuse, one question remains: why are more students turning to drugs and alcohol in college?

Students Don’t Consider Using Study Drugs as Cheating

A 2014 study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies revealed that almost 1 in 5 students at Ivy League universities misused common prescription drugs used to treat ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin. Dubbed as “study drugs,” about 46 percent of students surveyed did not view the drug misuse as cheating and 19 percent were unsure.

The stigma toward study drugs has proven to be low, with many students believing Adderall is safe to use for studying purposes. When asked how they used prescription stimulants for school, 69 percent said the drugs were for writing an essay, 66 percent said for studying for an exam, and 27 percent said for taking a test.

Yet, Adderall is not the only prescription drug that has been on the rise or commonplace in colleges. The Clinton Health Matters Initiative observed drug use patterns from 1993 to 2005: prescription opioid use increased by 343 percent in that time period and continued to show rising statistics by the 2014 publication date of the article.

High Pressure and Expectation Triggers Student Substance Abuse

To understand why student substance abuse continues to be on the rise—at least, beyond using Adderall for writing 10-page essays and studying all night—it’s important to consider the daily demands and life changes that college students are going through.

Some common reasons behind student substance abuse are:

New Freedom, No Responsibilities – Freshman students showed some of the highest rates of student substance abuse, which may be a reflection of their newfound freedom from parental guidance and home rules. Similar to students gaining the “Freshman 15” pounds after splurging on their favorite foods, some students may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol without restrictions.

Academic Pressure – From an early age, students are taught that their collegiate education is more valuable in today’s economy than anything. Without a college degree, students will have a harder time landing simple, entry-level jobs, which adds stress onto achieving good grades during college. This plays into why “study drugs” hold no stigma nor does binge drinking on the weekends to let loose cross anyone’s minds as a bad habit. Work hard, play hard.

Sudden and Frequent Availability – The reality is, drugs and alcohol are not hard to obtain. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. College parties and events are filled with student substance use, allowing young adults to have constant availability to illicit substances, alcohol, and prescription drugs. Student drug dealers paying their way through college by selling drugs are common characters to be seen; and as students become 21 and older, buying alcohol for underage peers serves as a “pay it forward” ritual.

Greek Life Partying – The US Department of Education reports that students who are involved in fraternities or sororities are 26 percent more likely to binge drink and engage in student substance abuse than non-Greek brothers and sisters. Known for throwing huge party bashes that serve beer and liquor by the kegs and pass pills and joints around like candy, students who join these organizations may also run the risk of developing lifelong addictions from frequent partying.

Student Substance Abuse Exists in Ivy League, Too

The Business Insider also sent out a report by the US Department of Education that compared how the eight prestigious Ivy League colleges fared for student substance abuse rates by recording drug and alcohol-related arrests.

The report listed Dartmouth College as the top school for both drug and alcohol arrests, at 1.30 arrests per 1,000 students for drugs and 12.53 arrests per 1,000 students for alcohol. Following Dartmouth were Yale University at second place, Cornell at third, and Princeton at fourth.

Given the elite reputation Ivy League schools strive to have, it may come as a surprise that these historic institutions reveal just as much student substance abuse as any other college in the United States. Reasons for this may lie in the fact that pop culture promotes the use of excessive drinking and drug use, and also spreads “enticing myths” about the safety of certain drugs and other misinformation.

Another explanation was given by Tom Workman, a fellow for the Education Department’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol Drug and Prevention Program. He suggested that Ivy League and other elite private schools are:

“More likely to enroll students whose race (white) and favorable socioeconomic status make them more likely to engage in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse; the competitive nature of such institutions also creates a high-pressure environment in which students are more prone to substance abuse.”

Need Addiction Treatment? Delphi Can Help You

The pressure from attending and studying for college can put a lot of pressure on a young person, especially if they have to manage their schoolwork with a part-time job, extracurricular clubs, and other commitments. If you or a loved one are resorting to substance abuse as a means to survive college, but find start seeing more struggles and conflicts rise up, it may be time to seek out addiction treatment.

Delphi Behavioral Health Group has several addiction treatment facilities across the nation. Feel free to call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 899-5777 and talk with one of our addiction specialists to learn more about drug treatment options, our residential rehab facilities, and how to afford addiction treatment. Start your recovery today.