Drug Abuse on College Campuses: What College Students are Doing on the Drug Scene

Desperate Man

When we think of college campuses, the upper echelon of educational attainment in the United States, a bunch of students smoking marijuana is not the first concept that comes to mind. However, on hundreds of colleges across the country, cigarette smoking is in rapid decline as marijuana use increases steadily.

“Drug Culture” is back, and in a big way, it would seem.

The drug culture of the 1960s and 1970s, a culture that we all thought was more or less disappearing is back once again, this time with a heavy focus on marijuana. “Drug Culture” is when a group of the population, usually young adults and adolescents, begin to idolize and emulate drugs, drug use, drug styles, drug concepts, and drug beliefs as being the “in” thing. Now, this is happening again in America, and it has touched down on most college campuses.

Marijuana; The Number One Drug of Choice Amongst Young Adults

“It’s clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation's college students…”
College student smoking marijuana

According to studies done by the Monitoring the Future Survey and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, six percent of college students smoke marijuana each day as opposed to only five percent who smoke cigarettes each day.

According to lead researcher Lloyd Johnston, a research professor at the University of Michigan:

“It's clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation's college students. This largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors.”

The research strongly indicates that marijuana use is growing amongst college students and has been for the last ten to twelve years or so. When we trace back to 2007, just over ten years ago, about three and a half percent of college students admitted to smoking pot daily. Since then, the percentage has almost doubled, with one in seventeen college students admitting to daily marijuana consumption.

And it’s not just daily-use pot smokers that are growing in prevalence. Occasional use of the drug is also increasing. The proportion of college students who use marijuana occasionally grew from seventeen percent in 2007 to twenty-one percent in 2014.

Cigarette Smoking is on its Way Down

Fist crashing cigarettes

On the other side of things, cigarette use is heading in the opposite direction amongst college students. Consistently with each passing year, cigarette smoking has reduced. In 1999, nineteen percent of college students were daily cigarette smokers. In 2014, only five percent of college students smoked cigarettes daily.

Young People Perceive Marijuana as Risk-Free

The steady increase in marijuana use on college campuses can be easily tied to a similar, steady increase in marijuana legalization across the country. As marijuana becomes more and more legal for both medicinal and recreational use, young people perceive the risk to be quite negligible in something that is actually used as a medicinal aid in twenty-nine states.

We can see the above phenomena in other survey results from the Monitoring the Future Survey, surveys that questioned young people as to their perceived risk of marijuana use. According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, the proportion of American high school graduates between nineteen and twenty-two who saw marijuana as being a harmful drug fell from fifty-five percent in 2008 to thirty-five percent in 2014.

Proper Education and Awareness is Key

Young people need to know that there are risks involved with consuming marijuana. We shouldn’t over-exaggerate the risks involved, yet we should be truthful and honest instead. Teens need to know the health risks of smoking marijuana, and the tendency for marijuana to be a gateway drug too.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.