Student Athletes - Substance Use

According to the NCAA, college students (including student athletes) are susceptible to heavy and frequent alcohol use when arriving to campus due to a believed cultural myth that campus life is about alcohol abuse and drug use. In comparison with non student athletes, student athletes report higher rates of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men. According to the NCAA, one in five male student athletes who use alcohol report consuming 10 or more alcoholic beverages in a social outing. These behaviors can result in a decrease of academic success, a decrease in athletic performance, and an increased risks of sexual assault and other interpersonal violence.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse and mental health concerns can often go hand in hand. Not only do mental health concerns increase the risk of substance abuse due to attempts to cope or alleviate symptoms, but those who are already at risk for mental illness increase risk when abusing substances.


Onset for alcohol related disorders peak in the late teens to early or mid 20s, making student athletes an at risk population. In a study presented by the NCAA, 30 percent of student athletes reported experiencing blackouts, which are red flags for developing an alcohol addiction. Additionally, since alcohol is a depressant, it’s use can exacerbate symptoms of depression.


Individuals who regularly use marijuana often report use due to coping with mood, sleep, pain, or other physiological or psychological problems. Consequences of marijuana use can include: Increased difficulty at school, work, or athletic participation Reduction in goal-directed activities Problems with social relationship Increased risk of accidents Increased risk for respiratory illnesses similar to those experienced by tobacco smokers Contribute to the onset of an acute psychotic episode Contribution to the onset or exacerbation of many other mental disorders including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders

How Do I Know if I Have a Substance Related Problem?

If two of the following statements are true to you within the past 12 months, it is possible you have a substance related problem (from DSM 5):
The drug is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
You have had unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the drug use
A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the drug, use the drug, or recover from the drugs effects
You experience strong urges or cravings to use the drug
Drug use interferes with fulfilling major obligations at work, school, athletics or home
You continue drug use despite recurrent interpersonal problems created by or exacerbated by the drug use Important social, athletic, academic, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of drug use
You have recurrent drug use in situations when it is physically hazardous
Drug use is continued despite having physical or psychological problems likely caused or exacerbated by the drug use
You have developed or are beginning to develop a tolerance to the drug You experience withdrawal in absence of the drug


CAPS: Set up an appointment with a CAPS counselor. This solution-focused therapy is free and confidential to all students. CAPS Resources on Alcohol and Other Drugs
Wolverine Wellness:  Through Wolverine Wellness, you can receive free wellness coaching to set and achieve wellness goals.
Treatment:  There are many treatment options outside of the University that can be inquired. Feel free to contact a CAPS counselor for referrals.