The College Experience – Substance Use & Peer Pressure

Experience is a great teacher. We learn though successes, we learn through mistakes, and we even learn from the internet. This summer, we are helping our students learn before their college experience. We have pulled together our experience in working with some of the brightest students, experience from working on college campuses in counseling, student life, disability services, and collegiate teaching to help equip our students as they take on this next phase of their student careers. We have chosen eight, essential topics to having a successful college experience in and out of the classroom.

Today, our topic is substance use and peer pressure!

In week 4 of the 8 week course, we will discuss awareness and education regarding substance use in order to avoid common pitfalls for new students.

Heading off to college is an exciting period in your life. You may be looking forward to more freedom, making new friends, expanding your life experience, and learning about subjects you are passionate about.

However, it can be difficult to navigate some of those new freedoms and opportunities, particularly when it comes to substance use.

On many college campuses, alcohol and drug use is widespread, and it can be very simple to access even for underage students. Drinking at parties, stimulant medication to help stay awake and focused while cramming for exams, and prescription pills, cocaine, and pot are often not difficult to find.

Furthermore, peer pressure in college may look different than it did in high school. In college, it may take the form of an initiation ritual for a club or organization or feeling the pressure of keeping up when comparing drunken escapades from the weekend with new friends. It might even be as simple as your new roommate inviting you along as a wingman or wingwoman to a party where you know drugs and alcohol will be readily available.

The unfortunate truth is that binge drinking and alcohol poisoning is a common cause of hospitalization and death among college students, and many times this is the result of group drinking.

Drinking games that encourage taking multiple shots or chugging beer or mixed drinks can result in dangerous intoxication levels, but it can be very difficult for students trying to make friends or relax in a new and strange environment to turn down that opportunity to bond.

Students often feel a great deal of pressure to engage in substance use so as not to stick out or appear naive or inexperienced.

The downside to all of this is that for many, experimenting with substance use and partying can take a real toll on academic success, not to mention physical and mental health. For some, it can be a very slippery slope to go from taking pills socially, to using them to stay awake, to not being able to function without them. It is important to remember that the decisions about how to spend your time and what you invest in while in college will affect how well you are able to navigate the next chapter of your life. For many, partying too much will actually result in failing grades and an abrupt end to the whole experience.

Some exploration during college is a normal and healthy part of the total experience.

It is just important to remember that while college can be some of the most fun, exciting, and rewarding years of your life, it is also the place where you make habits that will stick with you for years. Keep in mind your personal limits and expectations for yourself, and you will find others who share the same viewpoints. Know that not everyone uses drugs and alcohol, and that it is ok for you to make responsible, educated choices about what is right and healthy for you personally.

We are looking forward to helping you make the most of your time as you head off to college!  For more information or to register for The College Experience, click here!

Other parts in this series include:
Time Management
Social Media & Anxiety

Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT
mhalbrooks @