College is a difficult time for students because it challenges them academically as they prepare for the professional life. But the social aspect of higher education presents another layer of complexity that students need to deal with.
Navigating through these waters can be tricky, and too many students fall into bad habits and pick up behaviors that can lead to bigger problems in the future.
Drug abuse and alcohol abuse are two very serious problems that many campuses face. The threat of addiction is real, and so early treatment is ideal.
College students make up one of the largest consumer groups of drugs. There are many factors that cause this, and these will be discussed later on. The newfound personal freedom, the high anxiety during examination weeks, and the stress can lead to substance abuse because it’s a way of coping with the problems.
The National Library of Medicine reports that 37 percent of college students have used an illicit drug and/or abused alcohol on a regular basis. Illicit drugs in this report refer to opioids, stimulants, benzodiazepines, cannabis, and barbiturates. This is made all the more concerning by the fact that there is currently an opioid epidemic affecting the nation and causing overdose-related deaths.
College drug abuse is a major problem and students may not realize that it has very serious consequences.
Alcohol abuse is another major issue that needs to be addressed. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as consuming excessive amounts of alcohol over two hours. College students in particular are prone to binge drinking. However, this raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or more—a level at which it is illegal to drive.
Binge drinking and drug abuse are both extremely dangerous, and yet the youth are exposed to them anyway. It is important to take a look at the culture that enables these habits, in order to determine a reasonable course of action going forward.
Binge Drinking among College Students
Binge drinking can interfere with all aspects of a person’s life. Professionals have a hard time dealing with it—and college students suffer even more, because they have no idea how to manage their drinking habits.
Drinking at college is commonly glorified in pop culture, and this image certainly doesn’t help the case against alcohol abuse. College students are more likely to think it is cool because of what they see on TV or at the movies.
The party culture is pervasive at many colleges and universities, not only because it helps students feel like they belong, it also reduces the stress and pressure that they are going through. Of course, excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t actually make the body feel good. It’s not nearly as glorious as it is depicted on screen. However, trying to duplicate that experience in real life leads to a mentality that drinking means they are having fun.
In this type of atmosphere, students are far more likely to engage in unhealthy drinking activities, assuming it is a normal part of college life. There is also a complete disregard for severe health and safety risks, despite many students being aware of these threats. The possibility of addiction is seen as fictional—like it only happens on screen.
For men, binge drinking usually happens when they consume 5 or more drinks over the course of 2 hours. As for women, this involves 4 or more drinks over that same period of time.
Approximately 2 out of every 5 college students of all ages reported binge drinking at least once in the 2 weeks prior to a survey by the NIAAA.
Reasons for Binge Drinking and Drug Abuse
Binge drinking can be particularly damaging to college students with depression. Excessive drinking will only worsen these feelings, and it may lead to a destructive spiral. Despite all the health concerns and risks, college students still drink. And there are a few well-known reasons for that.
Stress management is one of the most prominent reasons for substance abuse. College students are adjusting to the new environment while also keeping up with tons of academic requirements.
Anxiety and insecurity are also
The Party Scene and its Effects on the Youth
College social life is more likely to involve alcohol, which in some cases may actually help a student’s social life. Drinking casually is something ingrained into culture and is actually celebrated. But excessive drinking is a different story. The party scene in college does not seem to make distinction.
Binge drinking in college may lead students to associate the experience with positive outcomes such as making new friends and feeling less anxious—even when casual drinking could make the same results in a much safer way.
There is also a reward-reinforcing effect caused by intoxication. This is what commonly leads to drinking problems and alcohol use disorder.
Young adults will drink due to loneliness, low self-esteem, and other mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, etc.
There are others who simply want to change their image when living in a new situation or town—and those who move away for college have the opportunity to do that. Many young adults want to lose their inhibitions and gain confidence.
They may also drink because of family problems and academic struggles. Addictive behaviors not only involve genetic factors but also environmental components. If a person’s parents drink excessively, then they are also likely to drink as they grow older.
Most colleges are aware of this problem. Binge drinking is not a new issue—and nearly half of student populations may engage in the activity. Still, enforcement of underage alcohol abuse laws is irregular.
Presidents, faculty, and alumni of colleges often intentionally look the other way, as they would rather have parents deal with the problem.
For many, alcohol is part of life on campus, and that they experienced this type of socially reinforced drinking themselves. This limits their desire to fix the problem, making the issue a cultural phenomenon as well.
Drinking excessively or taking drugs recreationally can lead to tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction. It also causes severe health problems. It damages the liver, the heart, and other vital organs. It affects a person’s behavior, making them unable to make good decisions. This is often what leads to vehicular accidents. Students may even get involved in risky behavior or get in trouble with the law.
Students soon feel like they cannot participate in social events without consuming more alcohol.
Exposure to Drugs and Alcohol
One important question to address is: “who binge drinks the most?”
An estimate suggested that 90 percent of people who drink too much, do so through binge drinking. That includes both adolescents and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC reported that out of all the problematic drinking patterns, binge drinking is the deadliest.
To make matters worse, one in six US adults binge drinks four times per month. This means they are consuming an average of eight drinks per binge. This is far more than the line leading to 0.08 BAC.
About 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol abuse. Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women, but in recent years, that gap has been closing. People between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most likely to drink excessively.
But overall, people who are under the legal drinking age, 21 years old, are most likely to binge drink.
Signs of Substance Abuse in College Students
Substance abuse is dangerous on so many levels. It affects a person physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, financially, and for some people, spiritually. If someone in the family is abusing drugs or drinking too much, it is important to look for the signs. This way, a solution can be made earlier—before the problem escalates.
It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse will vary based on the substance. Each person reacts to these things differently. This is why drug addiction treatment is heavily personalized.
Still, there are common psychological patterns that emerge that may be worth looking at, especially among those who are consistently abusing a substance. Personality changes are to be expected, and the student may become more secretive about their activities. Dramatic shifts in behavior may be hard to explain, but it could signal that something is wrong.
A college student may be abusing a drug if they display a sudden, drastic change in grades or academic performance. They may have decreased interest in classes and extracurricular activities.
They will experience shifts in sleeping patterns. Their body weight may fluctuate. They may gain or lose a lot of weight suddenly.
They will spend more time in newer social circles, especially among those who have a reputation of substance abuse. They will try to hide their addictive behaviors. In other cases, students might drink in the middle of the day, or even drink alone.
Drug Abuse, Alcoholism, and Addiction: The Statistics
The negative effects of excessive drinking are as serious as they are widespread. It not only affects college students, it affects the rest of the population, as there is currently an opioid crisis affecting the US. However, statistics involving college students are very important because they are most likely to abuse illicit substances as they enter adulthood. Dealing with these problems earlier can help prevent the opioid epidemic from worsening.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 690,000 college students between the ages of 18 to 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 599,000 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
Of the 88,000 people who die due to excessive alcohol consumption every year, 1,825 of those deaths are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.
More than 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
About 25 percent of students suffer from academic consequences because of their drinking. They miss classes, fall behind, or do poorly on exams. They tend to receive lower grades overall.
More than 150,000 college students aged 18 to 24 develop an alcohol-related health problem.
In 2016, 4.9 percent of college students used marijuana daily. This is a very large increase compared to 2.8 percent in 1996. Furthermore, 20.6 percent of non-college 19-to-22-year-olds were daily users. Outside of cannabis, however, many other drugs are being abused by young adults. This includes Adderall, hallucinogens like ecstasy and LSD, and cocaine.
The Importance of Rehabilitation
With all the negative effects addiction has on an individual, it is easy for a college student to get overwhelmed. College students fail to recognize that instead of solving the pressures of academic life, they are only adding to the problem. Their health suffers, their social and family life suffers, and their relationships can be damaged by alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
On top of all the health risks, a person who takes drugs recreationally is also at risk of fatal overdose. And once a person develops dependence, it becomes impossible to quit without going through withdrawal. If they try to quit, they may encounter life-threatening symptoms, and their cravings will only cause them to relapse.
This is what makes drug rehab necessary. It usually involves medication-assisted therapy, and a number of other behavioral therapy methods. But every student is different, so a comprehensive treatment program must be made to cater to their specific needs.
Fortunately, there are many rehabilitation programs that are geared specifically towards adolescents and young adults. There are sober frats and sororities that support ongoing recovery. No matter how serious the problem, it is possible to achieve long term health with proper support and the proper treatment approach.
If someone in the family is struggling with opioid addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against drug abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.