Substance Abuse in College

Enrolling in college life is supposed to be a bright period, full of new emotions, insights, and experiences. For many students, this is the first opportunity to leave home for a long time. Besides, young people are in an eternal search, trying to fit in, get to know themselves, feel all sides of a free life. It doesn't always end well. Substance abuse is one of the biggest challenges for each college. 

What is Substance Abuse

The definition of substance abuse involves addiction to any substance that causes it. According to USA Today, 22.9 percent of college students meet the criteria for drug or alcohol dependence or abuse. They start with regular parties and often end up in recovery hubs. In some cases, the consequences may not be so positive.

Of course, students are suffering from academic consequences because of their addiction. They skip classes, get low test scores, and poor academic performance overall. It is also connected with memory loss, mood swings, unpleasant physical symptoms. 

The good news is that college students are addicted less often than non-college teens. It can be explained by demographic factors, such as family, awareness, living standards, etc.

However, substance abuse is still a problem that requires conscious intervention.

Why Does Substance Abuse Take Place in College?

To understand the nature of substance abuse, you should understand why it takes place at all. If you speak with some addicted students, you’ll hear the next reasons:

  • Everyone else does it. When all teens in college are doing something, it becomes the “cool” thing to do. The “life of the party” is often a student who has indulged a little so much. Those who have other habits feel left out.
  • It is easy to get. College campuses are rife with different substances. Just watch some movies about the college period to see how freely alcohol flows at parties.
  • The youth is curious. Many students start a new life away from home, which means they feel free and brave. Of course, they are going to experience things they haven’t tried before. 
  • Students want to relax. Classes are stressful enough. Besides, there are a lot of other issues to worry about, e.g. finances, relationships, etc.

The most important thing to remember is that no one wants to be addicted. Drinking or vaping, students just don’t think about the consequences before it is too late. They think they have control, but the reality is different. 

Substance Terms and Lingo on College Campuses

Like members of any community, addicted students use specific vocabulary, jargon. Knowing these words, you will quickly recognize them in regular conversation and be able to react:

  • 8 ball is the unit of measure for cocaine or methamphetamine. Stands for 1/8 oz.
  • Dabs are concentrated doses of marijuana for heating and smoking with a special device like a bong. Dabbing is the process of vaporizing.
  • Edibles are foods infused or baked with marijuana or ingredients derived from it, such as hemp oil.
  • Lean, syrup, purple drank are the words used to describe the drink from codeine, candy, and soda.
  • MDMA is the active ingredient in ecstasy sold in pressed pill form.
  • Roach stands for the last centimeters of a joint or a rolled cigarette after it is smoked.
  • Tripping is the delight of using psychedelics.
  • Xans and bars mean a Xanax, the popular prescription anti-anxiety medication.

Why College Students Turn to Drugs

They feel stressed

The college period is an era of multiple opportunities, new knowledge, experience, travel. This is freedom and independence, the desire to conquer the world. But instead of enjoying a new stage of life, students suffer from a burden of unrelenting expectations from parents and teachers.

It leads to a situation where students are pulled in different directions. They want to learn and hang out, make plans, and not think about anything. At the same time,  ​​young people's idea about their place in the world is still very basic. Of course, this affects anxiety, depression, and temptation.

Alcohol and drugs circulating on college campuses help avoid stress, relax, and improve academic performance. And develop an addiction.


They mask true feelings

Many students have a backbreaking burden. They face divorce or death of their parents, a breakdown in relationships, a move to another state, and teachers' high expectations. The list of problems familiar to young people can go on for a very long time.

They become the cause of addiction very often. At a time when a student does not have proper psychological support and suffers from depression, the body of one is looking for stimulants that will help to forget about the pain. Alcohol, marijuana, and other substances make you feel better for a while. For a while is a key part.


They need better results

Some substances provide additional energy, motivation, and improve performance.

They are in demand among those students who play for the local sports team. One pill can replace several workouts or give amazing results in a decisive match.

Substances are also able to increase attentiveness, concentration, and the ability to remember. This is a short-term effect that is subsequently offset by the opposite result. Nevertheless, athletes and geek students have time to get used to substances. This addiction is not only physiological but also psychological: how to give up something that makes you better?


They lack information

Substances have long been a closed topic that no one talked about. The strict prohibitions of parents and the sudden freedom of college life are becoming catalysts for the development of bad habits.

Lack of information leads to problems in absolutely all areas of health care. Many researchers and volunteers are working today to disseminate data on the causes of addiction, the consequences, and methods of recovery. It is time to speak openly about this topic to develop an informed and conscientious society.


They don’t have support

On the one hand, we all have 500 Facebook friends. On the other hand, our era is the era of loneliness. Most social contacts are fake and do not provide real emotion and support.

The use of alcohol and other substances is what helps to feel "like you" in any company. But once students go too far, they don't know who to turn to. Society condemns alcoholism, drug addiction, and other types of addiction. This is why it is so difficult to admit that you have a problem.

Types of Substance Abuse 

  1. Alcohol abuse
  2. Marijuana abuse
  3. Stimulant abuse
  4. Ecstasy abuse
  5. Prescription painkiller abuse
  6. Xanax abuse
  7. Heavy drugs abuse

Substance Abuse Effects & Warning Signs

It is not easy to recognize addiction at different stages. Especially if you rarely contact the student. If one only attends the family for the holidays and during the summer months, you may not be able to mention the difference in personality caused by the addicted state.

Here are some warning signs to alert you:

  • Deterioration in academic performance;
  • Skipping classes;
  • Acute weight loss;
  • Ignoring friends and hobbies;
  • A large number of bottles and packaging from pills;
  • Compliance problems;
  • Road accidents;
  • Outbreaks of aggressive behavior;
  • Radical statements that are constantly changing;
  • Excessive sleepiness;
  • Poor attention and memory;
  • Excessive energy followed by lack of motivation;
  • Depression.

If you have any suspicions that your child or friend is addicted to substances, you cannot simply ignore it. If suspicions are vague, watch and find a couple of confirmations. And do whatever you can to help.

Help for Substance Abuse Students

If you decide to help students return to normal life, you should be prepared for the fact that it will not be easy. This process takes weeks and months, please be patient and determined. Here's what you can do:

  • Wait until they sober up so that you can have a meaningful dialogue.
  • Be open and considerate. Talk about your feelings and experiences related to their habits.
  • Make it clear that you are here to have their back. Let them know that you are always ready to help if they need it.
  • Talk to yourself and your perceptions without telling other people what they should or shouldn't do.
  • Do your research. Find information about AA meetings, student recovery groups, cool treatment centers.
  • Prepare for the main objections. Give specific examples that they have problems and need to be addressed.
  • Set a good example. As you spend time together, work on the right habits.
  • Try to be in their shoes. It is very important to understand what they may know about their problem, but not have enough psychological resources to confront it.

When speaking with addicted people, you must choose your words carefully. Do not use any accusations, insults, threats, or blackmail. Don't be vague or too confrontational. Don't lecture. Show that you have a plan with compelling reasons.

Recovery from the Substance Abuse

Recovery from substance dependence consists of several stages. All of them should be used in close conjunction with each other. You cannot choose one of these ways while ignoring others.

  • Detoxification. The first step is always to cleanse the body of alcohol, drugs, and other substances. The brain and thoughts must be fresh.
  • Psychotherapy. Individual or group behavioral counseling helps you understand the causes of addiction, track triggers, and feel better.
  • Medication. Medication treats withdrawal symptoms, associated mental conditions, and prevents relapses.
  • Long-term supervision and support. Students can attend regular support groups and interact with other young people who have come this way.

In happy situations, recovery is gradual. But some of these methods may not work, especially if students stay in the same environment. They can face temptations every day, and that's why it's best to temporarily isolate them from their familiar surroundings.

Resources on Substance Abuse for College Students

General resources

  1. Residential Life Center. Most campuses have this center that deals with all student issues, including addiction problems. Contact it if you need to find a good recovery center or have some objections to the college event with the alcohol.
  2. The Student Health Center works around the clock to answer student questions and provide assistance.
  3. Local Hospital. Contact any public hospital or health center that has all the information you need and has a clear plan of action.
  4. Local Church. Regardless of a person's spiritual views, the church is the place to find support. Any religion speaks of unconditional love and a comfort zone. Many substance-addicted students find their place in true faith.
  5. Counseling and Psychological Service. Find out if your college provides psychological counseling services. If so, you can discuss the mental health problems that caused the addiction.
  6. Local Substance Abuse Facility. Surely there is a specialized agency in your city, for example, based on a psychiatric university. They have all the instructions for dealing with substance abuse issues.
  7. Department of Psychology or Counseling. Some colleges provide opportunities for volunteer organizations to counsel and support students with addiction problems.
  8. GAMMA that stands for Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol is a student organization with a clear mission of creating awareness. Find this organization if you or your friend need help. 

Institutes, organizations, centers, and other resources to help

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A huge reason for addiction spreading is a lack of information. Here you can find plenty of research on the topic and lots of useful info for the cause.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse is a very respected organization. It offers a wealth of information relevant to college students experiencing problems with marijuana and other stimulants. You will find a lot of research and statistics here.
  3. Rethinking Drinking. Use this website to understand how and when alcohol becomes a problem. You will also learn how to reduce your intake and find several ways to start treatment.
  4. Alcoholics Anonymous. Every local community in every state and country has an Alcoholics Anonymous organization. This is a support group for those who have decided to give up bad habits and need someone who will always be there.
  5. Addiction Center is a comprehensive resource where you can find information on the symptoms of addiction, types of substances, treatments, etc. They also offer a large list of rehabs in all states and a free consultation with a professional.
  6. Self Management and Recovery Training organize meetings where participants help each other and learn to change their lives with a positive approach. 
  7. The Intramural Research Program invites students who use drugs and students without bad habits to participate in clinical research. You will help science and learn more about how abuse affects life and health.
  8. The Addiction Recovery Guide. This is a website with information and resources for those in need of recovery assistance.
  9. SAMHSA Behavioral Treatment Services Locator provides assistance based on the location of the person seeking treatment. There is also a toll-free helpline.
  10. Gordie’s Call. It is a resource for students looking to make their campuses healthier. You will get all the information you need to know about hazing, alcohol abuse, medical amnesty, and what you can do to contribute.
  11. Idealist connects volunteers with organizations that need them. 
  12. BACCHUS Initiatives of NASPA works on initiatives that address education and student safety issues. Student-led programs also include mental health, sexual health, and physical safety issues.

How colleges prevent Substance Abuse

Measures to prevent the spread of addiction should be taken not only by parents and students themselves. It is one of the primary goals of any college to create a safe environment. Here's what are they doing for this purpose:

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  • Dry campus. Some colleges prohibit the use of alcohol at all events, regardless of the student's age.
  • Marijuana free. Even though weed is legal or decriminalized in many states, campuses don't support it. At least because the marijuana permit jeopardizes federal college funding.
  • No smoking. Smoking, tobacco use, vaping can be banned on college grounds.
  • NCAA testing for athletes. Substances are often a problem for the sports community. Regular testing helps to ensure that students don’t use performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.
  • Individual tests. If college authorities believe substance addiction has become a problem, they may offer individualized drug testing.
  • Dry events. Some colleges sell alcohol at sports and other campus events. But if they want to prevent substance abuse, they should make them dry. 

Wrapping up

Early detection provides the best chance of recovering from substance abuse. What is also very important is a relationship of trust. People who suffer from a substance of abuse perceives the world as hostile. Social stigma is against them, and it certainly doesn't help treatment.

Fortunately, today we cannot talk about the lack of information or lack of access to it. If you are reading this article, you have contacts of useful organizations and effective advice on how to help your friend or to create a healthy college environment. Indifference and care are essential things to prevent substance abuse.

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