For many, college is the first time where students experience a new kind of freedom. They are away from parents, high school and even friends they have been around most of their lives. This new sense of independence can be exciting and at the same time a little scary for some. College has traditionally been a time where students take on more responsibilities and learn how to set and attain goals. Unfortunately, college is also a time where all of these pressures and influences combine and include a higher level of drug experimentation and substance abuse overall. One of the biggest culprits is marijuana, joining alcohol as something that is abused by a higher percentage of young adults in college compared to those who are not.
As marijuana becomes more mainstream with legalization for adults over the age of 21 in a few states, more and more college students are using the drug. According to a recent study, 18% to 21% of college freshman began using marijuana upon arriving at college. This is a slight increase from years before where about 17% of college freshman started experimenting with the drug. Scientists compared these numbers to those of graduating seniors that who chose not to attend secondary education and found that only about 9% of these young adults started using marijuana after high school.
So, the question many ask is why does college increase the chances young adults will start using marijuana? One expert had this to say, “We surveyed incoming first-year college students on why they tried or use marijuana…For some, experimentation was a motivator. Young adults might just want to try it and see what it is about. For others, they might use marijuana for reasons such as for social bonding, relaxation, boredom, to fit in, or to enjoy the feeling,” commented Christine Lee, director of the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Many people feel that there are bigger picture implications here. With higher substance abuse rates in college than before, and an increasing number of people using marijuana and other drugs, our next generation of leaders doesn’t sound to be quite as responsible as most of us would like them to be. Time will tell whether they are able to mature out of this behavior, as has been done in the past, or if we will continue to foster the drug culture and all the problems inherent in it.