College Students and Substance Use Disorders: A Need for Treatment and Support

College students – young adults – face so many challenges when it comes to addiction because of the accessibility and normalcy associated with college drinking culture. Considered a new-found form of “freedom”, many young adults find themselves testing the boundaries of what they can get by with – and substance abuse is a common ground of exploration for students. Bars are conveniently located near college campuses and weekend parties make it that much easier to use. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt – but unfortunately for many college students, substance use disorders (SUDs) are left untreated.

12-Step programs provide young adults with a support network whom they can rely on in times of need. Many young people aren’t fully aware of the effects of their substance abuse; they often don’t realize the dangerous effects until they’ve developed a full-blown addiction. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases discovered that many young adults do find hope and support in 12-Step programs; in fact, previous research has shown that social support is an incredibly powerful influencer to those in recovery.

Researchers from around the United States sought to explore the general characteristics of college students who have attended 12-Step programs. In a nationwide survey that was conducted, 486 participants responded – leaving us with some key insight to what our young adults are experiencing around this age:

  • Most students had used multiple substances and had higher levels of SUD severity
  • Twice the national average of college students also smoked
  • Many college students reported series of homelessness and involvement in criminal activity

Co-occurring disorders seem to be a major concern for young adults, and the severity only continues to worsen the longer they avoid seeking help. The best way to combat these issues is to speak up when help is needed – to encourage our loved ones to attend treatment, to support them in recovery and to continue educating our communities on the serious effects of addiction.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.