College age youth (18-24 yrs) are often faced with temptations with regard to alcohol and drug use. Opportunities to try these substances are often plentiful compared to high school/home life. This age group is also at a heightened risk for addiction, with full time college students twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as those who don't attend college.
Why are college students more susceptible?
There are several reasons attributed to this increased rate among college students:
- Stress: Many experience stress with the high demands of coursework, jobs, internships, social relationships, etc. and sometimes turn to alcohol/drugs as a way to escape and cope
- Course load: Course demands are causing some students to turn to stimulants such as Adderall to have the stamina to complete work
- Curiosity: Curiosity paired with opportunities to try things out leads to experimentation with drugs/alcohol
- Peer pressure: Few of us are immune, especially when making new friends and joining new social groups
What substances are being abused?
Trends change over time, and just about anything available is at risk of being abused. But there are a few that we seem to see more often.
- Alcohol use on college campuses is by far the most used and abused substance. Most in college are underage, but because alcohol use is socially acceptable in society in general, and because it is readily available at college parties, many have little hesitation. Nearly half of college students in a recent survey report binge drinking, which is more associated with immediate concerns such as assault, injury, arrest, or worse. Light or moderate use is encouraged for those who drink, which will lead to better judgment and control in behavior and decision making.
- Related to alcohol use is the risk for not knowing exactly what you’re drinking. Many times, party hosts will offer a “punch” with alcohol in it. It’s important to realize that in cases like this, you don’t really know what you’re drinking. A known beverage in a known quantity is always the better choice. Further, drinks in an open topped cup should always be attended to reduce the risk of something being added to it without the drinker’s knowledge.
- As marijuana use is becoming legal in many states, for medical and/or recreational use, New York State remains one of the strictest states when it comes to its use. As of now, there is very limited use for medical reasons only and a handful of facilities can prescribe it to their patients. Otherwise, marijuana use is considered a schedule 1 substance, and possession and/or sale of it will lead to fines and may lead to jail time. Health wise, there are many concerns with physical and mental health, especially for young people. Some health concerns are short term, some are long term. Before deciding to use marijuana, it’s important to educate yourself about the laws in this state, as well as the impact on your health and well-being.
- Some are turning away from the traditional coffee and caffeine drinks to stay awake, instead turning to Adderall, dubbed as the “study drug” for those feeling pressure to stay awake and work. However, inappropriate use of this drug for non-prescribed reasons is dangerous and users should be aware of the potential health risks, both physically and mentally (including decreased concentration), as well as its addictive property.
- College students are also at increased risk to develop eating disorders. Both men and women have been known to turn to diet pills to help lose weight. Pill abuse is common, as an unhealthy alternative to diet and exercise.
- Other concerns include ecstasy use and pill parties, which are seen to a lesser extent on college campuses.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, please seek help. There are resources available to help, and a call to the Wellness Center here on campus is a good place to start.