Drug and Alcohol Arrests Rising at College Campuses—How We Got Here


For decades, we have been able to rely on colleges to be the prestigious institutions that they are, to give our kids quality educations, and to provide our kids with the kind of knowledge that will ensure good careers and a pleasant quality of life. So, it comes as quite a surprise to us when we learn that college campus arrests (students being arrested on campus for one reason or another) are on their way up. It comes as even more of a surprise when we find out that the core, underlying reason for such arrests is substance abuse-related.

According to one report, there were no less than forty-four thousand arrests and over a quarter of a million disciplinary actions taken on college campuses in the United States in 2014. All of them had something to do with drug and alcohol abuse on campus.

While the study results indicated that such arrests were most prominent in Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alabama, New York, Nevada, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, and Delaware, such arrests occurred in all states and have increased considerably from what they were just a few years ago. In the above states though, the arrest rate was more than double what it was for the state median average.

What This Means for Our Colleges

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College campus arrests for substance abuse are increasing dramatically. Some colleges only experience a dozen or so arrests every year, but compared to zero arrests a few years ago, that is still a significant increase. Some colleges experience over one-hundred college campus arrests in just one year.

It’s not just the arrests that we should be concerned about either. More than two-thousand college students die from drug and alcohol abuse every year, many of them dying on campus and in fraternity and sorority houses, or behind the wheel while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What Colleges Have Become

If hindsight truly is 20/20, we’d all be saying, “We shouldn’t have let college students get away with such excessive partying for so long.” The truth is, college campuses have always been a hot spot for partying, carousing, merry-making, and some substance abuse. For decades this has been sort of palmed off as being “Just part of the college experience.” The truth of the matter though is that college campuses are now falling prey to a lot more than that “Just part of the college experience” line.

Our proclivity to be “reasonable” about college partying has led to a nation where college students are actually at some risk to their very livelihood and freedom when they go to college. Forty-four thousand arrests in one year is a huge percentage when only a few million youths are in college in any given year. And, while two-thousand lost college students every year is not a significant number when compared to the sixty-four thousand total nationwide deaths in 2016, dead college students on campus is a terrible thing for a college, for families, and for students to experience.

We need to enforce some discipline into colleges, but not only in the way of increasing security and rules on partying and drinking. We need to actually implement educational programs and we need to create awareness campaigns on campuses to teach college kids about the negative aspects of drug and alcohol abuse and why college students should stay away from such habits. College students need to understand just what is at risk with substance abuse, and they need to know to stay away from substances.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.