The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has released its Strategic Planning Guide for Preventing Drug Misuse Among College Students. The report includes findings on the trends of substance use among college students, risk factors for use, and counsels schools on how they can establish, maintain, and evaluate drug misuse prevention programs on campus.
Trends in Collegiate Drug Misuse
According to the DEA's Guide, the most frequent substance used on college campuses is alcohol. Trends observed on college campuses tend to mirror trends observed overall in the U.S. regarding the drinking behavior of women. The data show an increase in the self-reported heavy use of alcohol by female students. The second most popular substance on campus is cannabis, with male students reporting a daily use rate double than that of female students. Nonprescription use of amphetamines remained steady across the population. About 20% of college students reported using cocaine in the past year. Opiate use among the college population was reported to be much lower than use among the national population, with heroin use being virtually unreported.
Risk Factors for Drug Misuse
The report found that many risk factors come into play regarding collegiate drug misuse. These include individual, interpersonal, and community factors. Individual risk factors included experiencing financial stress, experiencing high levels of non-financial stress, and adolescent history of depression. Interpersonal risk factors included a family history of depression and perceived marijuana and alcohol use of a student's peer group. Community risk factors included campus normalization of drugs and alcohol and living off-campus (as opposed to on-campus housing).
The report also highlighted individual, interpersonal, and community "protective" factors—that is, factors that would make a student less likely to report the misuse of drugs. Individual protective factors included working 10+ hours per week, religious commitment, and coping (reporting using religion as a coping mechanism for stress). Interpersonal protective factors included no family history of alcohol misuse and perceived peer disapproval of alcohol and drugs. Community protective factors included involvement in service-based extracurricular activities, alcohol-free events, and programming.
The report noted that some student groups fall in the "high risk" categories for drug misuse. This includes athletes and sorority/fraternity groups, due to the normalization of substance use and drinking. This also includes LGBTQ+ students (who report higher rates of depression, anxiety, and panic disorders), and students with certain mental health conditions (including depression, anxiety, and panic disorders).
Seattle Drug Charges and Legal Defense
It is clear from the DEA's report that drug misuse often occurs when students have mental health issues, familial trauma, or who don't have coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on treating any mental health conditions and providing outlets for positive coping mechanisms to allow students to learn to deal with stress. However, each year many college students do face criminal charges related to possessing or selling controlled substances. A criminal conviction can lead to serious consequences for a college student that go beyond fines or incarceration- including loss of scholarships, loss of student housing, and more. If you're facing charges, call our office at 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form.