My Roommate is Addicted to Drugs: What do I do?

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

trinity-college-405783_640The college experience brings about new exposures to many different things.  As colleges are often melting pots of many different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, traditions, and expectations, students may find themselves in places, circumstances or situations that they would have never before anticipated.  Drugs and alcohol are often part of the college experience, and countless students are impacted by substance abuse whether directly using or not, and sometimes your roommate is addicted.

Substances are Abundant in College

University_of_Georgia_students_in_front_of_Old_CollegeCountless college students are accessing and abusing drugs, both prescription and illicit drugs, including  Adderall, OxyContin, Marijuana, Cocaine, Ecstasy Methamphetamines, and more.  Whether used for stimulation, painkillers, sedation or tranquilizer, many students may encounter drugs in one form or another.

A recent study found that the proportion of college students who have used any illicit drug has trended upward in the past seven years, with almost 40 percent of students engaging in drug use [1].

Given these statistics, the changes that you encounter another college student who uses drugs, even if you do not, are considerably high.  There is also the possibility that your encounter with a drug user may be more directly, such as if you have a roommate who is actively involved in drug use.  This situation can bring about many undesirable circumstances and make for a much for difficult living situation, so addressing concerns early on will be important.

Some are More Discreet than Others

Close-up of a sad and depressed woman because her Roommate is AddictedSome drug users may be more discreet about their behaviors and habits, while other college students who are using drugs may be more open and obvious.

Perhaps you have picked up on signs/symptoms that seem unusual for your roommate, such as irregular sleeping and eating habits, rapid mood swings, behavioral changes, and notable physical changes, such as weight loss.

You may have issues with your actual living situation, such as the smell of drugs in your apartment, missing food or other items, lack of cleanliness, etc.

Whatever situation you might find yourself in, speaking out early is important to resolving any issues you are facing as a result of a roommate who has a drug addiction.  There are tactful ways to speak with your roommate about your concerns, and the best way to have a conversation is in an environment that you both feel safe in.

There are tactful ways to speak with your roommate about your concerns, and the best way to have a conversation is in an environment that you both feel safe in.  Expressing care along with your concerns is always helpful when addressing a topic of discussion that is sensitive.

If Your Roommate is Addicted, Set Expectations and Boundaries

man with mirrowWhen dealing with a roommate who is abusing drugs, it is also important to be prepared with boundaries and limitations.

Laying down clear expectations should be part of your conversation, as it is necessary to communicate your seriousness and unwillingness to compromise on issues that are important to you.

When your health and well-being are on the line, expectations should be communicated that are non-negotiable.  For example, if you are constantly exposed to second-hand smoke as a result of your roommate’s using habits, it is necessary to convey how these conditions need to change and consequences that will result if the situation does not improve.

This may involve being prepared to move out and find alternative living situations if your roommate is unwilling to make any changes on their part.  Be prepared to follow through with any boundaries that are discussed, so do any necessary research ahead of time.

Living with a roommate in college who is abusing drugs can hinder your own college experience and possibly compromise your own standards of living.  If you are living with another individual who is actively using drugs, consider having an open and honest discussion with your roommate and devise ways to safely remove yourself from this situation.

If at any point you feel that the situation has escalated out of hand or that you are in need of more support, be sure to reach out to someone in a position of authority, such as a Residential Director on campus or college counselor.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you been in a position where your roommate was addicted to street drugs?  If so, how did you handle this situation?  What encouragement or feedback might you offer to another individual who may be in similar circumstances?


  1. University of Michigan, “Daily Marijuana use among U.S. College Students highest since 1980.”, Accessed 22 August 2015

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  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 a combination of 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.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 10, 2017.
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