Many college and university students don’t realize that there are resources to help them with substance abuse: A recent study looking at non-prescription drug abuse among college students found that only “51.4% of students were aware of resources, either on or off campus, that help with prescription drug safety.”1

Another study found that “only 4% of college students with alcohol use disorders obtained treatment,” far lower than non-student peers.2

If you are a college student who struggles with substance use, or if you wonder if you have a problem, there are resources to help you get support at the local and national levels.

The goal of this article is to offer college-age students a guide to dealing with substance use and how to take the first step toward recovery. As you continue reading, you will learn:

  1. Common substances that college students struggle with
  2. Signs that you or a friend may need help dealing with a substance use problem
  3. Treatment types available to students
  4. What to expect on the road to recovery
  5. Common threats to recovery
  6. Tips for successful recovery in college
  7. List of local and national resources for college students

If you need urgent support, you can always contact Anuvia Prevention & Recovery Center at (704) 376-7447 or online. We are a Charlotte-based non-profit treatment and recovery center offering a variety of treatment options.

Jump Ahead

When we hear “college substance use”, most of us think of alcohol. For a long time, it has been the leading substance available on campus, and it is often the most abused, too. And that remains true today:

  • 84% of undergraduate students reported using alcohol in the past year.3
  • Over 50% of these students reported engaging in heavy drinking.
  • 18% of U.S. college students suffered from clinically significant alcohol-related problems in 2000.

But statistics tell us that college students struggle with more than just alcohol abuse. They struggle with other substances too.

College graduates are more likely to have tried illicit drugs compared to adults who haven’t completed high school (51.8% vs 39.7%).

  • A study of 946 college students who were followed from freshman to junior year found that nearly half met the criteria for at least one substance use disorder during that time.”4
  • Annual use of Adderall among college students is higher (9.9%) than for age-matched individuals not enrolled in college (6.2%).
  • A study of 1,253 college students found that more than 20% were exposed to opportunities for cocaine use in the past year.
  • The percentage of college students using cannabis daily has increased, nearly doubling between 2007 and 2014.
  • Annual MDMA use among college students more than doubled from 2004 to 2016.

One study found that “college campuses are regularly characterized by a pro-drug culture in which substance use is considered the norm and a harmless rite of passage.”3

The study goes on to explain that for many college students, substances are relatively cheap and easily accessible. Combining that fact with the prevalent stigma of addiction and limited support services on-campus, it’s common for students not to know where to turn if they are dealing with problematic substance use or dependency.

It’s important to acknowledge that there is a range of substances college students are exposed to and that help is available.

Do I Have a Substance Use Disorder?

If you recognize these signs in yourself, you may have a substance use disorder. Help is available to you, which we’ll discuss later in this article. But if you need immediate support, contact Anuvia at (704) 376-7447 or online.

Physical Signs

  • A change in appearance
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Drastic weight fluctuation

Emotional/Mental Signs

  • Sudden changes with relationships or social circles
  • Unexplainable mood swings and behavior changes
  • Signs of depression
  • Increased sensitivity or defensiveness
  • Secrecy and deceitful behavior
  • Disappearing for long periods of time

Signs of Drug Use in the Dorm

  • Consistently borrowing or asking for money
  • Disrespecting rules
  • Lying (actively or by omission)
  • Avoiding difficult conversations
  • Missing money or valuables
  • Missing prescription pills or bottles of alcohol
  • Unusual containers, wrappers, baggies, or seeds around your dorm
  • Pipes, medicine bottles, rolling papers, and other drug paraphernalia

Signs of Drug Use at School

  • Declining grades
  • Reduced attention span or ability to focus

Treatment Options & Next Steps Toward Recovery

More and more colleges and universities are investing in on-campus addiction and recovery-specific programs, like 12-step programs. This shows promise that support may be available to more students in the future.

However, if these programs are not available on your college campus, another excellent resource is your college counseling center. Almost every school in the U.S. has a counseling center staffed by trained therapists who specialize in helping college-age adults.

A counselor can help you process your feelings and connect you with local programs that can help you detox (if needed) and get ongoing treatment. All conversations are completely confidential, and if you are over the age of 18, this information cannot be shared with your legal guardians.

If you’re not comfortable talking with a counselor on campus, your college counseling center may have a list of treatment centers in the. We will list out local and national resources below that work alongside Anuvia or provide similar services as Anuvia.

Support for College Students Struggling with Substance Abuse

Anuvia Prevention & Recovery Center

Anuvia is a substance use disorder treatment center in Charlotte with a 65-year history of providing evidence-based, person-centered recovery services. We offer a range of outpatient and residential treatment options, plus mental health support.

Short-term outpatient treatment

Short-term outpatient treatment programs are ideal for clients with a history of mild to moderate substance use. Students attend short-term treatment about twice a week, where they explore recovery in a confidential group-therapy setting.

Intensive outpatient treatment

For clients dealing with more severe substance use disorders, intensive outpatient treatment offers a structured recovery program with 12-step meetings, a relapse prevention plan, and group therapy sessions.

At Anuvia, we also offer Substance Abuse Comprehensive Outpatient Treatment (SACOT). This program uses a dual disorder treatment model to support those struggling with substance use and mental health issues. It also offers a higher-intensity therapy model for those dealing with severe substance use or who have a history of relapses.

Residential treatment

This treatment type is suited for clients struggling with severe or long-term substance use and who need a higher level of care and support.

Anuvia’s residential treatment program offers around-the-clock care from licensed professionals who can help clients as they work toward stability and recovery.

Residential treatment takes place at a treatment facility and can last anywhere from one to 45 days (or even more, depending on the situation and one’s insurance plan). Each day is carefully planned to include group and individual counseling, educational sessions, and relapse prevention programming. Residential treatment also offers family therapy sessions.

Anonymous Support Groups

There are many anonymous recovery meetings available, allowing you to find the best setting for you. There are support groups that are geared toward young adults. These groups share similar characteristics:

  • They describe themselves as a fellowship of people who can share their experience, strength, and hope with each other to encourage recovery.
  • The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using substances.
  • These programs are free and have meetings all across the country.

Alcohol Anonymous (AA)

View upcoming meetings in the greater Charlotte area here.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

View upcoming meetings in the greater Charlotte area here.

Cocaine Anonymous North Carolina (CA-NC)

View upcoming meetings in the greater Charlotte area here.

Marijuana Anonymous (MA)

While there aren’t currently meetings in the Charlotte area, you can attend online classes anytime here.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

This national organization offers robust search tools to find local support near you. You can adjust your search based on the facility type, type of care, and more.

Access the treatment locator here.

SMART Recovery

This program focuses on addiction recovery and offers both online and in-person meetings. The program describes itself as one that “was created for people seeking a self-empowering way to overcome addictive problems.”

Find in-person or online meetings here.


Another recovery program, LifeRing offers an anonymous meeting space where people can explore recovery discussions with peers.

Find in-person or online meetings here.

Celebrate Recovery

Another recovery program, based on religious teachings with both large and small group settings.

Learn more here.

Mental Health Resources

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug users also have at least one serious mental illness.”5 Often, college kids use drugs and alcohol to cope with mental health issues.

Anuvia Mental Health Services

If you are looking for mental health support in the Charlotte area, Anuvia is an excellent resource. In addition to substance use disorders, our counselors are also trained in supporting people with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Appointments are offered via telehealth Monday-Thursday. For more information and to schedule an appointment, please call 704-376-7447.

National & Local Resources

Threats Along the Road to Recovery

College isn’t always the most ideal setting for a student in recovery, especially at campuses that do not offer on-site recovery programs.

The same factors that can lead a person to abuse substances are still at large during a college student’s recovery. These are factors like:

  • The stress of academic performance or experiencing big life transitions
  • The onset of a mental health disorder
  • A pro-substance social culture, especially among parties and Greek systems
  • Easy access to drugs and alcohol on campus
  • A lack of access to supportive peers who are also in recovery
  • A wide-spread stigma surrounding addiction

All of these factors make recovery tricky, as a person in recovery always faces the possibility of relapse.

Tips for Successful Recovery & Relapse Prevention at College

Despite the very real threats described above can pose to a college student in recovery, there are some ways to lessen those threats.

  • Seek substance-free housing. For a list of colleges and universities with sober living housing options, visit
  • Find or create a student-led club that hosts sober events
  • Bring your own non-alcoholic drink to parties
  • When attending parties, bring a friend who knows you’re in recovery as a support system
  • Plan your own transportation and “exit strategy” for parties so you can leave when you want
  • If you are feeling tempted to drink or use drugs, avoid going out and instead find a fun alternative activity
  • Continue your recovery journey by seeing a counselor at school or by joining a support group to talk about new challenges that are hard to deal with sober. There are support groups that are geared toward young adults

In Summary

While there are many programs aimed at substance use prevention on college campuses, there need to be more programs for students who are in recovery or who may need to seek treatment.

If you’re a local college student in the greater Charlotte area, know that you can always turn to Anuvia. We are a non-profit organization delivering high-quality substance use treatment.

We believe in making recovery services easily accessible to anyone who needs them. If you’re a college student who’s concerned about the cost of recovery programs, please know that Anuvia will never deny treatment based on your ability to pay. Our team will work with you to get you the help you need.

To learn more about Anuvia or our treatment options, call us today at (704) 376-7447.

If you feel you need detox or are interested in residential treatment, you can contact our detox and residential center directly at (704) 445-6900.