Many parents worry about their college-age children facing temptation to use and abuse drugs while away at college.
Maybe online universities and the growing number of college students living at home isolate students from a college drug culture, keeping them on the straight and narrow.
Maybe so. But as usual, careful studies provide a reality check.
Drug use on and off campus
Surveys suggest drug use during the four years after high school doesn’t differ very much for those in college versus their peers not in college.
Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study (ongoing since 1975) of legal and illegal drug use among American adolescents and adults.
Their most recent study of college-age adults found that slightly fewer full-time college students (42.5 percent) used illicit drugs within the prior year than their peers not in college (43.0 percent).
When the data is broken down by type of drug, big differences are hard to find between college students and non-college peers.
Alcohol use among college students is about 3 percent more common and marijuana is 3 percent less common than in non-college peers. Adderall use is 3 percent more common and ecstasy is 2 percent less common.
Strikingly, non-college peers are much more likely to use tobacco.
Staying informed and being prepared
Legally speaking also, there isn’t a necessarily decisive difference. For example, Penn State has policies allowing expulsion for drug or alcohol use, but non-college employers have termination policies.
In every state, the legal drinking age is 21. Marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania, except under the state’s restrictive medical marijuana laws. And taking prescription drugs are always illegal if they haven’t been prescribed to you.
Whether a college student or not, whether you use drugs or not, anyone might be accused of crimes related to possession or distribution of drugs or alcohol, or of DUI.
An attorney experienced in controlled substance cases can help defend your rights, which also don’t change appreciably depending on whether you’re a college student.