1.2 million students drink alcohol on an average day

Alcohol and marijuana top the list of substances used most heavily by college students

About 1.2 million college students between the ages of 18 and 22 will drink alcohol on any given day, according to new data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The report uses National Survey on Drug Use and Health data from 2011 to 2014. Survey respondents were asked about their past year and past month using alcohol and illicit drugs.

On an average day during the past year, 1.2 million of 9 million full-time college students in the U.S. drank alcohol, while 703,759 used marijuana. Of the 2 million part-time college students, 239,212 drank alcohol, while 195,020 used marijuana.

On an average day during the past year, 2,179 full-time college students drank alcohol for the first time, while 1,326 used an illicit drug for the first time. Among part-time college students, 453 drank alcohol for the first time and 174 used an illicit drug for the first time.

When they drink alcohol, college students who drink consume about four drinks on average.

Among college students who will use illicit drugs on any given day:

  • 900,000 students will use marijuana;
  • 15,000 will use cocaine;
  • 13,000 will use hallucinogens; and
  • 7,200 will use heroin.

Student drug and conduct policies

People between the ages of 18 and 25 tend to be the heaviest users of both legal and illegal substances, sometimes with serious consequences.

Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that each year, drinking among college students ages 18 through 24 directly leads to:

  • 1,825 deaths;
  • 690,000 assaults;
  • 97,000 sexual assaults;
  • 599,000 other injuries; and
  • 150,000 alcohol-related health problems.

Responses to alcohol policy violations

However, substance use among 18-to-25-year-olds in the United States has decreased significantly since 2002. This cohort is now less likely to use illicit drugs other than marijuana, use tobacco, and engage in binge drinking or other heavy alcohol consumption (Lipari/Jean-Francois, SAMHSA report, 5/26; Ingraham, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 5/30; Inside Higher Ed, 5/26).


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