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College and Substance Abuse

College and Substance Abuse

One of the most concerning demographics for substance abuse in the United States today is college students.  College students in America abuse drugs and alcohol at rates the likes of which are simply not seen in other demographics and locales.  The college and substance abuse problem has now gotten so bad in fact that there is an actual correlation of college and partying, and people often think, and rightly so, that going to college involves a lot of drinking and partying.  There is quite a bit of truth to this.

For some reason, going to college is now associated with rampant drug and alcohol abuse.  Frankly, this does not happen to everyone who goes to college or who studies even at a community college, but the statistics on it are quite alarming, to say the least.  But why does this occur?  What are the leading factors that bring about so much substance abuse in an environment that’s supposed to be all about learning and self-improvement?

Why College Students Party

College is a tricky time for people.  When students enroll in college, they are usually eighteen to twenty years of age, and they will be in college until their early to mid-twenties.  This is a very impressionable time for an individual, and the mind and thought patterns of a human being are still going through a developmental stage even during this time. This is the first reason why college students drink and do drugs at such higher rates than other Americans and other demographics do.  To start with, the age that they are in precludes substance abuse so much more than ages for other Americans.  Eighteen to twenty-five is the age at which an American is most likely to use drugs, to begin with, so it follows then that college students would be pretty likely to engage in such behaviors.

Next up is the simple fact that just starting out in college produces some natural social anxiety for many students.  In fact, a majority of students surveyed admitted that their first year in college was one of their most nervous years that they had, even more nerve-wracking and concerning than at the first year of high school. The temptation to drink is strong in college students because college students overwhelmingly find that alcohol makes socializing much, much easier for them to engage in. For college students who are suffering from varying degrees of social anxiety, alcohol completely removes that anxiety and allows them to socialize better.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of really bad consequences that go along with drinking alcohol regularly to be able to socialize better though.

After that, we have a simple fact that not all college students immediately start binge drinking and doing drugs, but routinely drinking to have more fun leads many students toward addiction.  Why do college students do this?  The fact is that college students are some of the most impressionable people out there.  Their entire college experience is all about being impressed upon.  They are impressed upon by their professors, by their course loads, by their teams, by their extra-curricular groups, by their sororities, by their fraternities, and by their groups.  This can make them far more susceptible to picking up a bottle of alcohol or a packet of drugs just because they are told to do so, regardless of whether or not they want to actually do that.

There are a few other key factors that contribute to college and substance abuse as well.

These may include:

1. Stress. As students are facing the high demands of coursework, part-time jobs, internships, social obligations and more, many turn to drugs as a way to cope with what they have to do.  College is a big change for individuals when they finally have to go from being teenagers to full-fledged adults.  Whereas high school is free, college costs lots of money and a lot of pressure is placed on students to do well and pass their courses with good grades.

2. Course load. More students than ever are taking stimulant-based drugs, such as Adderall, to help them stay awake long enough to study or complete assignments by their due dates. All too often, these prescription drugs are obtained without a legitimate prescription, and almost always, such students end up getting addicted to them.  The laughable truth is though, by survey students who take these drugs actually do not have better grades than those who do not take them, and actually usually have slightly worse grades than drug-free students do.

3. Curiosity. College students are for the first time in their lives exploring many new aspects of their lives in personal and professional realms both. It’s not uncommon at all for that self-exploration to dip into drug experimentation and alcohol abuse.  A strong, underlying impulse in college is to branch out and try new things.

4. Peer pressure. This is a big one.  College students who are surrounded by other people experimenting with recreational and performance-enhancing drugs are more likely to try these substances for themselves and to get others to do as well, often because they are told to by their peers and ridiculed if they don’t.  One of the strongest underlying impulses in college is to, “fit in”, and if everyone else is doing drugs and drinking, then it comes naturally to follow along with that trend.

The Weight of the College and Substance Abuse Problem

Because this issue has become so prevalent and so realistic, different studies have been done on it to attempt to learn more about it.

Organizations like the National Institute in Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), have all gotten together to try and get to the bottom of this college and substance abuse crisis:

  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), alcohol is easily and most definitely the most popular and dangerous drug on college campuses by far.  It certainly causes the most deaths and the most accidents.  To many, drinking is synonymous with the college experience, (which didn’t use to be the case a few decades ago).  Alcohol is nearly always present at house parties, sporting events, and student get-togethers of all kinds. Because the use of alcohol during college is widespread and often condoned by officials, many college students end up drinking more alcohol more frequently than their peers who aren’t in college do.
  • College students make up one of the largest if not the largest groups of drug abusers nationwide.
  • Young people, (ages 18 to 24), are already at a heightened risk of addiction than older adults are, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • Those who are enrolled in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as those who don’t attend college.
  • Nearly half of students who drink have reported binge drinking, according to a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Excessive drinking is not only a major health concern in the long-term for anyone, it can lead to immediate tragedies such as assault, injury, arrest and even death too.
  • Daily marijuana use among college-aged young adults is at its highest since 1980, surpassing daily cigarette smoking for the first time in 2014, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
  • Approximately 31 percent of U.S. college students report symptoms of alcohol abuse.
  • Approximately 80 percent of U.S. college students have abused alcohol.
  • Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of students who abused tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium increased by 450 percent.
  • An estimated 110,000 students between the ages of 18-24 are arrested every year for an alcohol-related violation, such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Stop the College and Substance Abuse Problem

As concerning as this issue is, there are ways to stop it, and it must be stopped now more so than ever.  College students are the future of the nation.  College graduates will one day lead the businesses, companies, and corporations of the United States, and they can’t all be drunks and drug users at the same time.  The prevalence of drinking and drug use in colleges must be addressed.  It’s such a huge problem now that a college student is literally twice as likely to become an addict as a peer of the same age who does not go to college!

1. They key is in prevention and rehabilitation.  It is a two-step procedure.  First, colleges must work hard to educate their students on the harmful effects college and substance abuse and even create groups that have the prevention of substance abuse as their main goal and mission.  Security must also be increased on college campuses to crack down on the uprooting, and most importantly a change in perspective needs to come over the executives and leaders of college to understand how risky this is.

2. Next up rehabilitation needs to be applied to those students who are already addicted.  College and substance abuse prevention is fine and good but it is not enough if the issue with those who are already addicted is not addressed.  The truth is that these persons will continue to bring alcohol and drugs onto campus if they are not themselves rehabilitated, regardless of the efficacy of prevention methods.

So, with prevention and rehabilitation, the problem of college and substance abuse can finally be addressed and handled properly.  Now more than ever these issues need to be addressed, as the issue is far more severe now than it ever has been before.

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