College Students and Substance Abuse
Many times, going to university or college is the first time that young adults have the chance to live an independent life. But such a significant transition to a new phase of life with new responsibilities can be very mentally, emotionally, and physically stressful. A lot of young students find themselves struggling with balancing the new responsibilities that present themselves while away at college. Most rehab centers are well-acquainted and aware of the difficulties as well as the social and individual temptations to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
But why is this pattern so common during college?
What Are the Causes?
The college setting is usually the first place or phase of life that young adults begin exploring drinking and experimental drug use. According to the 2018 statistics of college students between the ages of 19-22 from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 28% of college students reported binge drinking; over 2% reported opioid misuse; over 11% reported Adderall misuse; and almost 11% reported marijuana vaping.
Students between these ages are at a higher risk of developing addictive patterns because of circumstances that are most present during university and college. There are a number of central issues for college students that often cause them to turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to improve their social lives and relieve academic stress.
Primary causes of substance abuse in college students include:
Stress: Many students face very high demands of schoolwork, part-time or full-time employment, extracurricular internships, social activities, and family difficulties.. Many young adults in college strive to balance these responsibilities, many of which require significant attention. When they can’t accomplish this, they can feel overwhelmed and may turn to coping mechanisms to manage their stress.
Academic pressure: Many young adults in college take stimulants, such as Adderall, to help them stay focus on coursework and help keep up with the difficult workload. Many students don’t know, however, that these drugs can become addictive and cause other negative side effects leading to other health problems.
Experimentation: A lot of students see college as the ideal time in their lives to explore their personal, social, and professional boundaries. On this journey of self-discovery, their exploration can form patterns that lead to substance abuse.
Social pressures: If students are surrounded by others who abuse drugs and alcohol, many feel social pressure to follow suit in attempts to be welcomed into the group.
“Greek-life” Organizations and Alcohol Abuse
“Greek-life” organizations such as sororities and fraternities claim to foster positive and family-like environments. But unfortunately they are more often places where alocohol abuse and drug use are most prevalent on college campuses. For example, studies have shown that living in sorority or fraternity houses significantly increases a student’s likelihood of developing heavy drinking patterns. Furthermore, a student’s also depends on their heavy drinking patterns prior to college, especially as seniors in high school, making them more or less vulnerable to worsening prior habits.
Other studies have shown other dangerous situations that Greek-life alcohol abuse can lead to, such as drinking and driving. It is reported that a Greek-life student is twice as likely to ride in a car with a drunk person than a non-Greek-life student. Based on social pressures and a sense of environmental normativity, students can get used to a certain way of life without realizing how destructive their patterns have become. Such habits not only put the individual student’s life and well-being at risk, it can also compromise the safety of others.
Alcohol can be a dangerous substance that can have many physical, emotional, and psychological repercussions. The effects of alcohol abuse can be very severe, ranging from extreme danger to low-grade addictive habits that can deteriorate other areas of a person’s livelihood. Knowing that heavy drinking is common among college students, it is important to provide support early on to lower their risk of developing an addiction, whether it be to alcohol or other substances.
The Increasing Prevalence of Mental Illness
Mental illness in young adult students is quite common and can become exacerbated by academic and life stress . Because of this, many try to cope with their symptoms by drinking and drug use. Depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and family difficulties can pile up. Suicide among college students, for example, is often tied to an untreated mental illness, most often related to depression. Drugs and alcohol, thus, can be a way for students to not only deal with academic stress but also with underlying symptoms of a mental health struggles.
Commonly Abused Drugs on University Campuses
Many people might associate college with alcohol or marijuana, there are a number of different substances that are commonly abused and misused on college campuses, including:
Prescription drugs (stimulants, depressants, and narcotics)
Polysubstance abuse, which is the practice of combining different substances, is also common and can be taken alongside alcohol. By combining different substances, students may not be aware that this increases their risk of alcohol poisoning, seizures, coma, addiction, overdose, and other dangers.
Negative Effects of Substance Abuse
Movies and television often popularize and glamorize alcohol and drug use by portraying substance abuse in sororities and fraternities that make it seem normal, fun, or even a necessary rite of passage. Many students think they are strong enough to stop whenever they want, and have the ability to get sober. But unfortunately, substance abuse causes chemical and physical changes to the brain and body that can make it difficult to change one’s lifestyle. Some common side effects of abusing drugs or alcohol in college include:
Liver and kidney diseases
Adverse effect on academic performance
Substance abuse should be a serious concern for college students, and this starts with education and learning. Knowing the many physical, emotional, and psychological problems that can result from using drugs and binge drinking in college might dissuade or caution students from crossing that bridge. Recovery centers help to spread awareness about topics like this, as well as make it easier to get help at the first signs of addiction and substance abuse.