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Young Adult Substance Abuse Statistics

Written by Brandon Okey. Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy.

As a behavioral health problem, substance abuse has been an epidemic in the U.S., affecting millions of adults. Among young adults 18-25, the statistics are more astounding and grow worse every year. If you’re looking into treatment for yourself, a loved one, or a friend, read about some startling facts about young adult substance abuse.  

Substance Abuse Stats for College Students & Non-College Aged Young Adults

Among the age groups, college-age adults are abusing substances at an alarming rate. According to the National Institutes of Health or the NIH, a component of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) young adult substance abuse shows an increase in marijuana and alcohol use in the past five years. Moreover, nicotine and non-medical use of prescription drugs rose, along with a surge in vaping and hookah for the non-college group. In 2018, the NIDA announced results from the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey on substance use trends as teens transitioned into adults. More than 13 percent of those not attending college are substance abusers on a daily or near-daily basis – specifically marijuana. Alcohol use was more common with college-aged young adults. Interestingly, opioid use declined in both groups. Cigarette smoking rose in the non-college group. Here are more statistics to review, comparing 2009 to 2017 in substance abuse.  

College Students

  • College students’ vaping use sat at 5.2 percent; this was the first time the survey included the question of vaping.
  • Alcohol use for college-aged students was a whopping 62 percent.
  • Daily smoking was only 2 percent.
  • Students vaping nicotine rose to 6 percent.
  • The use of Vicodin dropped significantly, with only 1.1 percent reported, as opposed to 8.4 percent in 2009.
  • Synthetic drug use, such as cannabinoids, also dropped to 0.5 percent. 

Non-College Young Adults

  • Vaping rose to 7.8 percent for non-college aged young adults.
  • Alcohol use topped out at 56.4 percent.
  • Daily smoking for non-college groups reflected the most significant difference, with 14.4 percent.
  • 7.9 percent of young adults vaped nicotine.
  • Vicodin usage decreased dramatically from 11.2 percent in 2009 to 1.8 percent in 2017.
  • Cannabinoids use was 2.4 percent in 2017

Causes of Young Adult Substance Abuse

Doctors and researchers have several theories as to why a young adult would abuse substances. It seems that genetics, including of one’s environment on gene expression, amount to roughly 40 to 60 percent of a person’s addiction risk.  Environmental factors, i.e., abuse, parent’s drug use, and attitude regarding drugs, as well as peer influences, increased young adult’s substance abuse. Community reactions and views on drugs and poor academic performance also increased the risk. Mental illness also plays a role. Teens and young adults increase their chances of substance abuse if diagnosed with a mental health disorder than other populations.  

Call Ardu Recovery Center for Help

For more information on how we can help in addiction recovery, please contact us. Our treatment center specializes in getting you or your loved ones the help they need when they need it, allowing them to get back to living the life they want.
Brandon Okey

Brandon Okey is the co-founder of Ardu Recovery Center and is dedicated to empowering people on their journey to sobriety.