The alarming use of alcohol and drugs as a stress relief in college students

College is stressful for students with many turning to alcohol and drugs for relief.


“The biggest stress factor is the workload, many students can’t keep up and they resort to drugs to deal with it,” said Mark Heuthe, a second year Durham college student.

According to the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse approximately 69 per cent of males and 58 per cent of females admit to abusing alcohol during their college tenure. These statistics have been consistent since 1989.

The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. says binge drinking is one of the most common forms of alcohol abuse with it being twice as prevalent among men than women. It also says binge drinking in most common among young adults between the ages of 18 to 34 years of age.

According to the CDC, there’s an increased risk to health because students sometimes consume large amounts of alcohol in one sitting, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. It says binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive impaired, as well.

According to the website, AddictionCenter, alcohol is the most-used drug by college students. However, Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is on the rise with approximately 30 per cent of students using it because of its calming effect.

Adderall is known as the “study drug” because it enables students to stay awake to study. According to the website, Drugabuse, Adderall can have lasting effects such as cardiovascular side effects as well as an increased risk of mental illness and unusual behaviours such as aggression and hostility.

As with Adderall, marijuana is on the rise as well. It is ranked the second most used drug among college students, according to AddictionCenter, with 50 per cent of students using it.

While men have a higher rate of addiction to substance abuse, women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

CAMH says 20 per cent of people with mental illness have reoccurring substance abuse problems. Also people with substance abuse issues are three times more likely to have a mental illness.

According to Statistics Canada, 600,000 Canadians are physically dependant on alcohol, with approximately 2,000 people dying from alcoholic liver disease. Many people who abuse alcohol also use illegal drugs.

It says treatment options include Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12-step group that supports people in their journey to becoming sober and gives them a recovery program.

“I just took a drink because that’s what I would feel better with y’know,” said former alcoholic Kevin Toutant who is 14 years sober, and a member of AA in Oshawa. “If I was sad or if I was happy, I drank for any reason to get out of myself, or to block out the death or the funeral or something, I would drink y’know and get drunk and black out.”

Many colleges have resources available for students to manage school if they are feeling overwhelmed.

“I know about SALS and SALS is a great way for people to actually just go over there and they can try to help you in anyway possible,” said Anthony Inderdeo, a first year Durham college student. “To reduce the workload or try to find strategies or ways how to manage all of your subjects so you don’t have stressful and heavy workloads.”

College life is stressful and being able to manage and organize the workload is a key factor.

“College is different from everything, you need to be organized and have time management,” said Heuthe.