Living With a Drug Dealer in College: What Should I Do?

Contributor: Hugh C. McBride, clinical content team member Twelve Oaks Recovery Center

Attentive woman working on the laptop while her boyfriend is sleIt’s the moment you have been both anticipating and dreading. After a few months of texts and emails, freshman orientation day is here, and you finally get to meet your new roommate in person. It’s a little bit awkward to finally be in the same room with this person, and a bit disconcerting to think about how much time you’ll be spending in the same room with this person, but you’re optimistic that once you get to know each other, it’s going to be great. And then, two weeks later, you find out that your roommate is a drug dealer.


Roommates and one is a Drug DealerNow, it’s no secret that substance abuse is stunningly prevalent on college campuses across the United States. But its one thing to know that the people down the hall are paying nightly tribute to National Lampoon’s Animal House, and another thing altogether to realize you might be living with Scarface. And even if your roomie turns out not to be intent on becoming a homicidal drug kingpin, you’d strongly prefer to not be sleeping in close proximity to a potential future felon.

But how can you extricate yourself from this situation without making matters worse than they already are? What, exactly, is proper protocol when one discovers that one is rooming with a drug dealer?

First, it’s important for you to understand a few essential points:

  • Your concerns about this situation are valid. Do not let anyone convince you that this is just a normal part of college or that you are overreacting or being otherwise “uncool.”
  • You have the right to live and study in a drug-free environment. No matter how common substance abuse may be on your campus, you should never be forced to tolerate it against your consent within your room.
  • Your roommate’s behavior may be placing you in legal jeopardy as well as physical danger. Every day you allow this situation to continue increases your risk.
  • If you feel you are in danger, leave. Stay with a friend if you have to. Do not remain in a situation that puts your life, health, or legal status in jeopardy.

Young lady worried about what to do since her roommate is a Drug Dealer

If you are not in imminent danger, your initial step may be to assess both your roommate’s activities and your relationship with him or her. First, let’s look at the behavior. If he or she is storing and/or selling drugs in your room, which is much more problematic for you than if he or she is conducting this business at another location.

Every situation is unique and dependent upon local and state laws. However, generally speaking, if you knowingly allow illegal drugs to be stored and/or sold in your living space, you may be in violation of the law and thus subject to arrest and possible imprisonment.

talk aboutSecond, what is the quality of your relationship with your roommate? Are you close enough that you feel safe talking to him or her about the problem, and do you believe that he or she will stop storing or selling drugs if you so demand? If so, have this conversation immediately.

If your roommate has begun selling drugs as a result of a substance use problem, help him or her to get the professional help needed. Regardless of the reasons that the drug dealing began, though, it is essential that the behavior stops and the drugs are removed from your living quarters immediately.

If you don’t have the personal relationship that will allow you to safely have this discussion, talk to someone in a position of responsibility, such as your dorm’s resident advisor. Explain the situation, express your concerns, and arrange for either you or your roommate to be relocated.

Your RA should be trained in how to handle a situation like this and should know what steps to take in order to resolve the problem. If your RA does not turn out to be reliable or effective, speak with your academic advisor or another experienced individual who can put you in touch with the resources that you need.

What’s Your Risk if Your Roommate is a Drug Dealer

holding-hands-858005_1280Of course, if you feel that you are in imminent danger or if you believe that the problem is not being properly addressed by the people with whom you have already spoken, you can contact campus security or the local police. In fact, depending upon the nature of your roommate’s behavior and the quality of your relationship, this may be the ideal first step to take.

You will need to use your best judgment to determine the severity of the problem and the risks that you are facing in order to decide how best to start solving this problem.

Having a roommate who is selling drugs can be profoundly unpleasant and should never be ignored. But if you make an intelligent assessment the situation, protect yourself both legally and physically, and bring the matter to the attention of a person in responsibility, you will significantly increase the likelihood that you will emerge from the experience with your health, academic standing, and legal status intact.

About the Author:

“Living With a Drug Dealer in College: What Should I Do?” was written by Twelve Oaks Recovery Center clinical content team member Hugh C. McBride. Hugh has several years of experience researching and writing on a wide range of topics related to behavioral healthcare. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College.

About the Program:

Located on 5 beautiful acres in Navarre, Florida, Twelve Oaks Recovery Center is a 96-bed recovery center that provides detox, inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment to individuals who are dealing with substance abuse, addiction, and certain co-occurring conditions. The Twelve Oaks treatment philosophy is based upon the understanding that alcoholism, drug addiction and other forms of chemical dependency are treatable diseases with complex physical, behavioral, psychological, social, and spiritual components. Treatment at Twelve Oaks is provided by multidisciplinary teams of dedicated professionals, including master’s level mental health counselors, social workers, nurses, and recreational therapists.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on September 10, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
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