On an average day last year, 1.2 million full-time college students were drinking alcohol and more than 700,000 were smoking pot, according to a new report.
A Day in the Life of College Students Aged 18 to 22: Substance Use Facts, a report by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), uses national data to offer insights into the use of alcohol and illicit drugs among America’s nine million full-time college students.
The findings also shed light on who is using booze and drugs for the first time. On an average day among full-time students, 2,179 drank alcohol for the first time and 1,326 started using an illicit drug, the report says.
“The findings show that college is the time when a lot of young people initiate substance use, and alcohol and marijuana are the most frequently initiated substances,” said Dr. David Dean, behavioral research scientist at SAMHSA. “There is a great deal of development that is still occurring during this age, particularly neurophysiological development, that can be inhibited by substance abuse."
Among America’s 2 million part-time college students, 239,212 drank alcohol and 195,020 consumed marijuana on any given day last year.
The findings are based on 2011-2014 annual averages from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. These are the most recent findings that quantify annual averages of substance use among American youth, said David Dean.
“These numbers are not new to us but they are alarming,” said General Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. “We need to somehow change the social norms related to alcohol. Most young people believe that drinking is a rite of passage and that one has to drink to drink to fit in, but we know that it is not appropriate.”
According to Arthur Dean, an average American child tries alcohol before the age of 13. Starting alcohol consumption early can increase a person's chance of becoming dependent on alcohol later in life.
The World Health Organization places the United States among the top 25 countries in terms of per capita alcohol consumption. Every year, more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries and about 700,000 are assaulted by another student who’s been drinking, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Arthur Dean said ages 18 to 22 are the most vulnerable for students and can define their behavior for the rest of their lives.
“Parents have the greatest influence on children, and they need to have solid discussions (with students) about the dangers of alcohol use and the impact it can have on academics and social life,” he said.
According to Arthur Dean, the legalization of marijuana by several states will have a direct impact on the increase of substance abuse among young people.