College Campuses: Ground Zero For Addiction

8. February 2016

While there may be a lot of drug and alcohol use and experimentation in high schools, college is where things can really take off. In high school, kids are often still under heavy parental supervision, and while the high school years may be full of peer pressure, media influence and pressure to succeed, these things often pale in comparison to what your average 18 – 20-year-old will experience when they head off to college.

The Combination Of Freedom And Pressure

kids in a college class

A whole new world opens up when you get to college. For many people, this is the first experience living away from home. Whether in a dorm or renting an apartment with roommates, you are suddenly unsupervised and surrounded by people your age in a new environment. It’s exhilarating. Your future is laid out in front of you, full of possibilities. You are calling the shots, and you are surrounded by creativity and novel experiences. For so many, these next few years will be among the best of your life.

And then, there’s the pressure.

For young adults today, getting a college education is the epitome of high-stress. Rising tuition costs mean hefty loans, a mad scramble for shrinking grants and scholarship dollars, and working one or two jobs in between classes to make ends meet. Social anxiety and peer pressure are also an issue, and a common motivation to start drinking.

There’s also pressure to perform. Getting those papers done, studying for exams and trying to prove yourself in an increasingly competitive space can lead even the most level-headed young adult to overeat, drinking too much and picking up other bad habits such as smoking and overdoing the caffeine.

The Risks Of Addiction

The college years have always been notorious for hard partying. Countless movies have been made around the fraternity and sorority scene and the big party that is the college campus. But for many students, a fun party can lead to problem drinking and using that lasts far beyond those college years.

Today, the risks have gone beyond excessive drinking and recreational drug use. The stakes have gotten higher. Oddly enough, many of the drugs being used on campus aren’t even being done for the sake of the party, but for the sake of productivity.

Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are being taken by students who are trying to either gain a competitive edge or just trying to keep up.

Drugs like Ambien and Xanax are being used to counteract the effects of the stimulants. Drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin are being used to numb out after weeks of high-stress and not enough sleep.

Of course, the party is still there, and plenty of people are taking both prescription and street drugs simply to get high. Alcohol and marijuana continue to be a problem. Both substances increase the chances of car accidents and other dangers, and lack of inhibitions contributes to unwanted pregnancies, STD’s and other problems. Marijuana use has been shown to have negative effects on cognitive function and academic performance.

Either way, today’s college campus is ground zero for addiction.

A Recipe For Disaster

While technically considered adults, your average 18 to the 21-year-old college student is still very much a teenager. He or she has not fully matured, and simply hasn’t the life experience yet to deal with the sudden wave of responsibilities, stress, and freedom that’s just been unleashed on them. Add to that the typical teen attitude of invincibility, and you have a heightened probability of addiction and everything that goes with it.

The prescription drug epidemic that’s going on right now doesn’t help matters. Many college students are opting for pills over alcohol, pot, and cocaine. Addiction to opiate painkillers and benzodiazepines is a major problem for the 18 to 24 age group.

How Can You Tell If There Is A Problem?

It isn’t always easy to tell, especially if you aren’t seeing your loved one on a daily basis. If you have a college-age son or daughter, identifying the problem when they are off in college is tricky. There are some signs to look for, however:

  • Avoidance. Your loved one may start avoiding you. He or she may cancel visits, stop answering the phone and make excuses why they can’t see you.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and typical activities. If your son or daughter is normally athletic or participates in activities and suddenly stops, this can be a cause for concern.
  • Abandoning old friends.
  • Financial troubles. He or she may start borrowing more money, or not be able to pay their bills.
  • Physical symptoms may include rapid weight loss, insomnia, dilated or constricted pupils, slurred speech, poor coordination, falling asleep at inappropriate times and drastic, uncharacteristic mood changes including hostility, paranoia, agitation, and depression.
  • Sudden drop off in performance. If your son or daughter is normally a good student and they experience an unexplained drop in grades or begin dropping classes, this is also a sign that there is some kind of problem.

While some of these signs can be attributed to being busy or overwhelmed, it’s still important to acknowledge them and dig a little deeper. Depression and anxiety can also be reasons for falling grades, weight loss, and other issues. Have a talk with your loved one.

What Do You Do If There Is A Problem?

If you find that your loved one is struggling with addiction what do you do? It’s important to address the problem and get things out in the open as soon as possible. If you have suggested help and they either don’t want to admit they have a problem or insist they have everything under control, it could be time for an intervention.

How An Intervention Can Help

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can’t convince your loved one that they need help. Addiction is a powerful illness and family members are not generally equipped to deal with the denial and often erratic behavior they are faced with during confrontations. Professional support is sometimes the best way to get real results.

An intervention allows family members to express their fears to their loved on in a much less volatile meeting facilitated by a licensed professional who does this every day. Interventions are frequently underutilized because people don’t realize how well they work. With a 90% success rate, an intervention can help your loved one get into treatment so they can get better. And, an intervention can give you and your family the support they need. Addiction is a family disease, and it affects everybody. An interventionist can help you learn new ways to cope with and heal from the effects of your loved one’s addiction.

If you are ready to get help for your family, call Intervention Services, Inc. today. You don’t have to wait until they hit rock bottom, call 1-877-478-4621 to learn more. Help starts the minute you call.