How to Know if Your College Student Is an Addict

College students partying

College is extremely frightening and exciting at the same time. Leaving home for the first time can come with homesickness and anxiety on the one hand and newfound independence on the other.

For a lot of people, trying new things and meeting new people is the most exciting part about going away to college. Evolving into an adult and finding a path in life can be exhilarating and full of unforeseen possibilities. Unfortunately, for a lot of new students on their own for the first time, some of those unforeseen possibilities aren’t always a thrill ride.

I’d say a very high percentage of the people I’ve met through the years while I struggled with addiction—including the times I was in rehabs—started abusing drugs when they were in college. For a lot of us who become addicts, drug addiction starts when we are on our own and don’t have our families close by to hold us accountable for our behavior.

Signs of substance abuse can go unchecked until a full-blown addiction has occurred because most of us couldn’t admit that we had lost control of our lives and we most certainly couldn’t tell our parents. As a result, most people will only admit to there being a problem when things start getting so bad that they are no longer able to cover it up.

Signs Your College Student Might Be Addicted

Here are some of the warning signs to look for:

  • Out-of-touch and not calling home as much
  • Spending exorbitant amounts of money
  • Mini “crisis” situations that they need money to handle
  • Withdrawn, non-communicative about their lives
  • Failing or dropping grades
  • No motivation
  • Unusual behavior
  • The feeling that the person is hiding something.

Experimentation was the first warning sign for me. Some students have a false idea that the “college experience” involves consuming more drugs and booze than a body can tolerate, followed by staggering home with a person they don’t know and then making some bad decisions with that person. However, contrary to popular belief, the actual college experience is going to class, getting an education, and preparing oneself for adulthood in the real world. Unfortunately, too many college kids go the route of party, party, party with “education” a secondary consideration.

A lot of people who experiment with drugs and alcohol in college don’t always fall into full-blown addiction—but many do. Daily drinking and drug use can become the solution to many problems a new college student might face which, in turn, creates the breeding ground for substance abuse.

Drunk college students laying on floor

The other big warning sign is frequency, meaning, how often is the student partying?

I noticed a couple of years into college that if there wasn’t a party going on, I would find one or create one. Education quickly played second fiddle to the party scene and as I progressed, the weekdays and weekends became much more difficult to distinguish. I started using chemical help to go to class so I could keep the party going at night, and my focus was no longer on creating a better future for myself but simply keeping my grades up enough so I could keep the party going. This is when I knew I had a problem; but again, things hadn’t gotten bad enough for me to even consider a change—and that’s the point.

There are so many reasons and ways to catch addiction early before it gets worse—before the truly dark times. Trust me, you need to avoid the wake of destruction addiction can cause in the years after college. If you can, recognize that a problem is occurring, even though you’ve held it together long enough to make things appear okay on the surface.

So do something about it now. Save yourself from all the pain and misery that follows the short-term fun you think you are having on drugs and alcohol.

Don’t just continue down that very dark road. Spot the warning signs that addiction is happening. It’s the best thing you can possibly do to get whatever is going on handled.

Justin P.—Narconon Suncoast Graduate


Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.