A large number of tertiary education students, as well as staff employed by universities and colleges, abuse alcohol and drugs.
HIGHER HEALTH’s research has found that 35% of students at universities reported being drunk or abused alcohol in the last month (2009 study) and that 60% of TVET college students and 58% of TVET college staff abuse alcohol on a regular basis (2014).

The 2011 National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey substantiates alcohol-related risky behaviour: 30% of males and 20% of females had engaged in binge-drinking in the month preceding the survey. 

A research synthesis produced by the STRIVE Research Consortium in 2019 underscores the association between alcohol and HIV and other individual and social harms. It advises that addressing harmful alcohol use in high HIV prevalence countries such as South Africa has the potential to help curtail the spread of HIV nationally, and reduce the impact of other structural drivers of the HIV epidemic, such as GBV.