How Do Binge Drinking, Marijuana, and Excessive Smoking Influence College Students?

How Do Binge Drinking, Marijuana, and Excessive Smoking Influence College Students?


The prevalence rates of the use and abuse of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana remain astonishing among college students in the United States despite enormous interventions put in place by government and non-governmental authorities to curb the same. Binge drinking, for instance, remains a severe problem in colleges across the entire country and is considered a serious public health issue today. On the other hand, marijuana and tobacco smoking have increased significantly among college students, what can be attributed to socio-cultural factors such as family and peer influences, advertisements on print, digital, and visual media platforms, as well as availability or widespread distribution of the same (Bobo & Husten, 2000).

In recent times, American authorities have focused on eradicating binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive smoking among college students because of the serious health issues those cause among the youth. By focusing on this topic, the current research provides extensive and relevant information on the adverse effects of binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive tobacco smoking, especially on college students. However, people outside the outlined group might also find this theme to be relevant because the mentioned substances have adverse impacts on every person consuming them. In other words, non-college students using or abusing these substances are likely to suffer in equal measure. There are numerous studies focused on the prevalence and co-occurrence of the use and abuse off substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco among college students. What these studies fail to address extensively is how the consumption of these substances affect college students regarding their academic progress, mental condition and physical wellbeing. In addition, these studies focus solely on the use and abuse of the same among undergraduate college students while turning a blind eye on graduate college students.

Literature Review

The moral decay and exhibition or irresponsible behavior by college students in society today have seen research conducted on the factors behind the use and abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco in college premises. This, however, does not mean that there are no current studies or future studies that will focus on the same.

Cranford, Eisenberg, & Serras (2009) point out that there are an incredible use and abuse of all of the abovementioned substances among college students in the United States today. However, this study states that the abuse of marijuana, to be specific, is more common among non-college-attending peers than college students. The research also agrees that even though there is much focus on the prevalence and co-occurrence of behaviors associated with substance use among undergraduate college students, there is minimal attention and focus on the same among graduate college students. Regarding the impacts of binge drinking, marijuana, and excessive smoking on college students, this study argues that these substances trigger behaviors among college students exacerbated by psychiatric disorders. According to this study, the use and abuse of these substances cause mental health problems among college students, which in turn jeopardize their concentration levels and academic achievement or performance. A key highlight is that there is strong evidence for associations between nicotine dependence and mood and anxiety disorders among college students although these associations tend to vary by gender. To be precise, this study postulates that excessive smoking causes major depression among college students. It further pinpoints binge drinking as a major health problem within this group, and one of its effects is that it causes poor mental health. When it comes to marijuana use, this study notes that the prevalence rates of the same among college students are slightly lower than it is among their non-college counterparts. It goes ahead to mention that the effects of marijuana use among college students are depression, depressed moods, and anxiety.

Williams et al. (2004) point out that binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive smoking are currently some of the major problems faced by colleges in the United States. Increased consumption of the mentioned substances has elicited a crackdown by local, state, and federal authorities especially on underage college students involved in the practice. This study argues that substance use and abuse among college students is on the rise and remains higher than estimates from the general population. In line with this, the study mentions that annual prevalence rates for alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use among college students aged between 19 and 28 years are 83.7 percent, 35.2 percent, and 36.9 percent respectively. On the other hand, prevalence rates for non-college adults aged between 19 and 28 are 84.1 percent for alcohol consumption, 27.6 percent for marijuana use, and 30.3 percent for excessive tobacco use. The increased use and abuse of these substances have come even after the embrace or implementation of higher taxes on alcoholic products, tougher laws on drunk driving, state restrictions on happy hour pricing, as well as regulations on social access. According to this study, recent highly publicized deaths of college students are attributed to increased binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive tobacco smoking. These deaths come when college students are involved in drunk driving that causes numerous accidents across the United State.

Salonen (2003) states that alcohol is one of the world’s oldest drugs and its use is common among youths, especially those in colleges. This study further notes that excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking within the outlined group has detrimental impacts that can be divided into acute and long-term impacts. Some of the acute effects of binge drinking on college students include being arrested and charged for drunk, committing alcohol-related offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol, suicidal behavior, and accidents. Some of the long-term impacts of binge drinking on college students according to this study include chronic damage to health including liver cirrhosis and chronic mental health problems. When it comes to tobacco smoking, this study considers it the leading cause of preventable deaths in the developed world, which includes the United States and further states that about half or regular smokers are likely to die from the effects of smoking. Some of the effects of tobacco smoking among college students include anxiety, depression, and health complications such as lung cancer. The study further states that marijuana is one of the most widely used narcotics in colleges and other institutions of higher learning in the United States, and it has been seen to serve as a stepping stone to other hard drugs. Marijuana also has a high association with other forms of addiction such as tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption and has adverse effects such as depression, anxiety, restlessness, and other health complications.


Binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive tobacco smoking have adverse impacts on college students who use and abuse these substances at an astonishing rate (O’Grady, 2008). As noted in the literature review, the excessive consumption of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco by college students has adverse impacts including depression, anxiety, being arrested and charged for drunk, committing alcohol-related offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol, suicidal behavior, accidents, as well as health complications such as liver cirrhosis, lung cancer, and others.

With these perspectives in mind, it is important for the federal, state, and local governments to step up in their efforts and fights against the use and abuse of these substances not only in colleges and other learning institutions but the society in entirety. There is no doubt that the enactment of laws or regulations on the manufacture, distribution, and use of alcohol and tobacco will help reduce the adverse effects of the same on people, especially college students who are mostly affected. An intervention that will help minimize or address the adverse impacts of marijuana on college students is illegalizing its use within the United States (Weitzman & Chen, 2005). Already, selected states have come up with laws illegalizing the use of marijuana, and this has helped reducing the adverse impacts of the same on human health and living conditions. Continued binge drinking, marijuana use, and excessive tobacco smoking could have adverse impacts on the national economy as well. Research indicates that academic performance and standards in the high education sector in the United States are on the decline, a perspective that is largely attributed to the discussed practices. It is estimated that in the coming years, the number of graduates joining the employment sector in the U.S. will decrease significantly, and this could have worse implications on the American economy (Weitzman, 2004). It is important that the relevant authorities and stakeholders should push for the formulation of policies and enactment of laws that will see a reduction in the prevalence rates of alcohol consumption, marijuana use, and tobacco smoking among college students across the country.


Bobo, J. K., &Husten, C. (2000). Sociocultural influences on smoking and drinking. Alcohol Research and Health24(4), 225-232.

Cranford, J. A., Eisenberg, D., &Serras, A. M. (2009). Substance use behaviors, mental health problems, and use of mental health services in a probability sample of college students. Addictive behaviors34(2), 134-145.

O’Grady, K. E., Arria, A. M., Fitzelle, D. M., & Wish, E. D. (2008). Heavy drinking and polydrug use among college students. Journal of drug issues38(2), 445-465.

Salonen, U. (2003). Alcohol drinking, smoking, cannabis use and physical and mental health among Finnish university students: a longitudinal study. Ulla Salonen.

Weitzman, E. R. (2004). Poor mental health, depression, and associations with alcohol consumption, harm, and abuse in a national sample of young adults in college. The Journal of nervous and mental disease192(4), 269-277.

Weitzman, E. R., & Chen, Y. Y. (2005). The co-occurrence of smoking and drinking among young adults in college: national survey results from the United States. Drug and alcohol dependence80(3), 377-386.

Williams, J., LiccardoPacula, R., Chaloupka, F. J., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Alcohol and marijuana use among college students: economic complements or substitutes? Health economics13(9), 825-843.