Education is one of the most important, if not the most important, factor in predicting success in adult life. So why are so many students ruining their chances of success by using substances that can impair their learning? The answer lies in the central purpose of school, college and university for many students, which not to learn, but to be part of a culture of peers. Other studies show increases, particularly in the use of prescription medication use for non medical purposes although some studies have shown encouraging reductions in trends of substance use among school aged students. And it seems that was actually predicts their substance use is having the impression that others are using alcohol and drugs, regardless of actual substance using behaviour of students' peers. One study of nearly 1,000 students showed that what they thought was normal among their peers in terms of cigarette, alcohol and marijuana, was far from true, for example. It also unfortunately indicated that students from ethnic minorities were at greatest risk of actually developing substance use problems as a result of thinking that other students were using more substances than they actually were. Another study of college students produced similar results.

The culture of substance use in students

The students' perceptions about how much other students were drinking and using drugs were not accurate, with most overestimating these behaviors in their peers. The more frequently students engaged in a behavior, such as drinking or drug use, the more likely they were to think it was normal student behavior, regardless of the truth of the situation. Another study of nearly 700 university students looked at their social networks, and whether their friends were using alcohol and other drugs. Students whose peers were using alcohol and drugs had ten times the risk of hazardous drinking, six times as much marijuana use and three times as much tobacco use. And it increased their risk of marijuana use although perceived closeness with peers was helpful to these students emotionally. In case tudents could be influenced to reduce their substance use, as well as harmful attitudes towards substance use, in response to mutual aid groups – an experiment was conducted to see whether the reverse was true. The groups were effective in reducing positive attitudes towards substance use, reducing alcohol and marijuana use, and increasing their engagement with the group.  With rates of substance use disorder at around double that of the general population, students are one of the highest risk groups for substance use, and related problems.  A variety of reasons for this have been suggested, and supported, by research.  Because if trauma can be treated, it may prevent substance use problems becoming a lifelong struggle, one of the most important to address is that of childhood trauma. In case substance use persists throughout the college or university years, it can have a detrimental effect on academic performance, with negative consequences that can affect the student's future career in addition to this. The rates of childhood trauma among students are shockingly high, although it may not be widely known.