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Drugs & Health Blog

Covering Addiction: How Common is Drug Use in College?

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Sara Bellum

Last February, NIDA held its first "Covering Addiction" Roundtable discussion for college journalists. Fifteen students from universities around Washington, D.C. picked the brains of NIDA scientists and professional health reporters, asking them about careers in science and health journalism. The student journalists got tips from pros who have worked for ABC News, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post on how to write about sensitive health topics like drug abuse and addiction.

Overall, students said they got a lot out of the experience, but some said they would have liked more time for questions about addiction and the health effects of drugs. So to follow up, here are some answers to common questions about drug use in college.

Girl interviewing man.

-Is everyone using illegal drugs in college?

No. Many college students drink alcohol, but most of them are not using other drugs.

-How common is drug use in college?

It really depends on the drug. The most common drug used in college is alcohol (yes, it's a drug). A survey asking college students about their past-month drug use found that about 2 out of 3 drink alcohol, and about 1 in 5 students smoke cigarettes. Marijuana comes in third, with about 1 in 6 students smoking it in college. (Interesting fact: full-time college students actually use less tobacco and marijuana on a regular basis than people of the same age who don't go to college.) As for other illegal drugs, very few college students are using them. For example, fewer than 1 in 100 college students have ever used heroin or steroids.

Two women on a panel.

-How do you know?

NIDA's Monitoring the Future Survey asks middle school students, high school students and high school graduates about drug use. If you want to see the real data for yourself, you can go to the Monitoring the Future website and look at all the 2007 results for college students (PDF, 2.13MB).

-Stay tuned...

If you're studying for a journalism career in college, or planning to study journalism when you go, stay tuned! We'll announce the next college journalist roundtable here at the Sara Bellum Blog.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


this is verry informational. now i know not to do druggsss

Drug abuse is very life threatening and if you stop you can be free and live life normally

Interesting that alcohol is seen as a drug too - do not think of it that way. However, I do believe that if alcohol was "invented" (as well as tobacco) today, they would both be banned as illigal substances.

Alcohol a drug???

@Pete--yep. By definition a drug is "a chemical compound or substance that can alter the structure and function of the body..." Alcohol affects every organ in the drinker's body. Getting drunk can impair brain function and affect coordination, and doing it often can increase the risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver disease.

Going into college i had never experimented with drugs or alcohol at all. About a month into my freshmen year my roommate pushed and pushed until i gave in. I ended up drinking extremely heavily and smoking pot about 5 times a week. Who would have known I was going to develop mlm depersonalization disorder which absolutely takes your life from you. Everyday i wake up still stuck in a dream with no emotion [commercial link removed, per guidelines]


Stupuid drugssssssssss.........We will never use drug.....drug..drug..drug..drug..drug..!!!!

i dont like weed ................dont try it ever <3

it is interesting. . .


i understand the stigma behind certain drugs and the dangers, but with marijuana. there is not scientific study to show that is more dangerous than drinking or smoking cigs

Instead of using drugs for boost self confident, it would be great if people become more religious

Heavy use of marijuana leads to depression among other mental disorders.

Don't listen to the druggie crowd, this is one of the most dangerous drug because of the tolerant attitude towards it.

Whoever invented drugs should be ashamed of himself/herself. We would longer have addicts who wasted their money on weed and do harm to the public. [commercial link deleted, per guidelines]