Substance Abuse Among College Students: A Lesson For Society

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College Substances Abuse: Warning Signs.

College students are faced with pressures and stressors that many are not prepared for. Some turn to substance abuse to help them cope with these new responsibilities and this new lifestyle.

As teens graduate from high school and begin their first year of college, some are shocked to find that college may not be what they expected. Some carry the expectation that college consists of good times, parties, and classes with laid-back professors. While some colleges do have their fair share of good times, parties, and laid back professors, the norm is very much different.

The expectancy of attending students is an extreme change from high school. Students are expected to be on time, complete large workloads, and carry themselves as a responsible adult. This can lead to the beginnings of stress and sometimes panic.

Coping Mechanisms

Student and drug abuse

Many people, including college students, sometimes turn to external sources as coping mechanisms. For some, mind or mood altering substances are the methods of choice due to their fast results. While turning to chemical substances may seem to turn the tides of stress relatively quickly, many students do not realize that these actions count as substance abuse. This not only accounts for illicit drugs and prescription medication but alcohol, as well.

Students aged 18-24 are already in a heightened risk group for drug and alcohol abuse. Statistics show that 4 out of 5 students drink, and approximately 40 percent of drinkers have reported binge drinking. Marijuana use is second to alcohol abuse, and prescription medication abuse comes in third. The reasons for this abuse is most commonly anxiety, peer pressure, and curiosity.

Common Reasons for Abuse

The most common reasons why college students abuse drugs include:

  • Anxiety – Many times, college students are experiencing their first real taste of freedom. They may have never been away from their parents for an extended period of time, and they may feel excitement by the prospect. But they also commonly feel a great deal of anxiety due to the newfound freedom and responsibility of taking charge of their own lives. In some cases, they turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the stress.
  • Grades – You’ve probably heard of college students doing “all-nighters” in order to cram for a test or finish a report. Increasingly, they’re also turning to stimulant drugs, such as Adderall, to complete these all-night study sessions without falling asleep in class the next day. These drugs help keep them alert and focused, but they can also become addictive if used in excess. They may also cause dangerous symptoms, such as rapid heart rate or high blood pressure.
  • Peer Pressure – In elementary school, kids are taught to “just say no” to drugs. That’s because most young people are most likely to be offered drugs or alcohol for the first time by their peers. College students are often trying to find themselves and discover what type of person they want to become. During this confusing time, they may cave to peer pressure if the opportunity to try drugs or alcohol arises.
  • Social Engagements – Alcohol and certain drugs make one more social and outgoing. For those who aren’t used to the party scene, or anyone looking to make more friends on campus, this can be an alluring prospect that may be too hard to resist. Heavy drinking while partying can easily become an addiction.
  • Experimentation – Part of growing up and finding oneself is experiencing new things. For some, that includes seeing what using drugs and alcohol are really like.

Commonly Used College Campus Drugs

Marijuana and college students

The following are the commonly used drugs on college campuses:

  • Alcohol – Most abused by students
  • Marijuana – Almost half of all college students report using marijuana
  • Adderall – Used to stay alert during long hours of studying
  • Ecstasy – Also known as “molly,” also known as MDMA

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more students now are using marijuana more than at any time during the last three and a half
decades. However, alcohol is still the number one most commonly abused substance among college students.

What drugs do college students use to study?

Adderall is the main drug that college students use to study. This drug is used to maintain alertness during long hours of studying. Adderall is becoming more popular on college campuses where students have heavier course loads.
Most commonly abused drugs include:

  • Alcohol – This is by far the most commonly used substance by college students. It is inexpensive, easy to acquire, and can be found just about anywhere. It’s also technically legal once a student is of age, so there isn’t as much worry about being caught with an illegal substance.
  • Marijuana – Marijuana, more commonly referred to as “pot,” is also a very common drug on college campuses. Nearly half of all college students report using marijuana. This isn’t a good thing since studies have also shown that pot use during the teen and early adult years can damage a still-developing brain and even affect intelligence.
  • Adderall – Commonly used to maintain alertness during long hours of studying, Adderall has become increasingly popular on college campuses where students are given more coursework than ever.
  • Ecstasy – This drug was wildly popular in the 90’s, lost favor, and has now made a resurgence. It is most commonly found in its purer form MDMA, also referred to as “molly.”
  • Nicotine – Let’s not forget something that often doesn’t count for a drug. Although tobacco can be found almost everywhere, just like alcohol, nicotine addiction is one of the hardest to overcome. Smoking is responsible for many cases of smoking-related lung cancer and many other health issues. Data shows that 24.8% of full-time college students smoke. This is a warning sign for many campuses to follow the smoke-free laws across the country.

Warning Signs of Abuse During College

While drug use usually begins as a way to cope with new pressures, or as a new social function, any prolonged use of mood or mind-altering substances can cause dependence or addiction. This is especially dangerous when a tolerance begins to develop. A tolerance causes an individual to increase their intake in order to maintain the same level of change. Many do not take into consideration that long-term substance abuse of any kind can have lasting, or even permanent repercussions.

Addiction is also life-threatening, because overdose is very common among addicts and those dependent on a certain substance or substances. Combining substances or moving on to harder and more dangerous drugs, is a risk that all drug abusers take. It doesn’t matter how smart, wealthy, or attractive one is – drug abuse leads to drug addiction.

Whatever the reasons behind drug use and the substance of choice are, drug abuse among college students has devastating consequences. It’s not only for the users but their families and the people around them.

Therefore, always be aware of signs of substance abuse and addiction:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in weight
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Poor academic performance
  • Missed classes
  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Sleeping problems
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Traffic accidents
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal inclinations

Also, if you notice any unusual objects, pills or bottles in your child’s or friend’s room, try to start a conversation. You should always be open and supportive. There is no shame in asking for help. There are many hotlines and charities that offer counseling and support.

Getting Help

For most individuals, realizing that their dependence has grown into an addiction is hard to see, or hard to face. If you or someone you love has become dependent on drugs or alcohol, please seek help right away. No one is alone, and you don’t have to be. Addiction can happen to anyone no matter their financial class, looks, religion, gender, or race. There are many who suffer from addiction, and millions more are finding the help they need each and every day. Inpatient treatment is always the safest, and best way to find sobriety.

Time spent in a rehabilitation clinic is the most effective means of treatment. Inpatient centers offer an integrative approach that is far above any outpatient center or counseling alone. They combine medical care during detox and withdrawal, counseling to help uncover the root of the addiction, as well as peer support from other patients and support groups. This combination of therapies is more effective than any single method alone. When inpatient rehabilitation is over, continuing support and counseling is highly recommended to ensure you stay on track with your recovery.

There’s a light in the tunnel. Many educational institutions try to promote a drug-free environment and engaging curriculum to keep students busy, motivated and fulfilled. Also, there’s more good news. Authorities are working with parents and organize campaigns to educate and support young adults during their journey in college. This is a journey that is a starting point for their future life.

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