The rising incidents of substance abuse among college goers are quite a disturbing trend. Drinking alcohol has long been the most common form of substance abuse in college, but if the figures of National Institute on Drug Abuse are to be believed, the use of marijuana, prescription drugs and other illicit drugs is on the rise as well.
According to a 2016 NIDA survey titled “Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2016”, the results that were found are not promising. Daily marijuana use is at 4.9% in college students and 12.8% in non-college peers. Heavy alcohol use (binge drinking) is 32.4% of college students and 28.7% of non-college peers, while normal intoxication is 40.8% in college students and 30.4% in non-college goers. Again, amphetamine misuse appears to be higher in college students than non-college peers. As disconcerting these figures look like, they are self-explanatory with regards to major health and behavioral concern in college students.
Substances found on campuses and their impacts
Alcohol is commonly used among college students during parties and other social events, including birthday celebrations and sporting events. Binge drinking is on a substantial increase, affecting about two fifths of the college population. It accounts for the majority of alcohol consumed and is associated with the bulk of problems encountered on campuses, impacting students’ social lives, health, and education. Alcohol is responsible for rising absenteeism from class and poor academic performance, resulting in lower grades. The more deleterious hazards of alcohol are injuries, accidents, vandalism, sexual assaults and fighting on and off campuses. Excessive drinking can also cause health problems such as liver damage, heart complications and alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
Marijuana is being widely used to relax or relieve stress, but in order to get high students often smoke it during parties or in preparation for a social event. The use of marijuana in campuses has been high during the past decade. While marijuana has never been associated with fatalities from toxicity, but it does have adverse health consequences. It impairs motor functions and due to which numerous accidents are caused. Prolonged use can cause lung problems, depression, addiction and increased risk of mental health problems. Students who smoke marijuana may develop a lack of motivation. This can cause students to miss class or fail to complete homework assignments.
Widely known for being a crime drug, cocaine is truly a menace for the society. When snorted in powdered form, cocaine produces a powerful stimulating effect by providing a burst of energy and euphoria. It is smuggled in large quantities into countries like United States by drug cartels, which is why it is associated with organized crime. Cocaine changes the brain’s chemical balance and reward system, making the drug physically and psychologically addictive. The drug elevates blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. Overdoses, heart attacks and strokes resulting in death are common among people who use it.
- Prescription drugs
- Adderall: This pill is basically developed to help people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. But students use it for intoxication at social events, including parties and sporting events. Heavy Adderall abuse can cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings for more. Besides being addictive, the drug can cause sleep disturbances and numerous other side effects, such as nausea, headaches and weight loss.
- Ritalin: Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant prescribed for treating narcolepsy (uncontrollable sleepiness). It increases focus during late-night study, however, students are using it for euphoric effects at parties and other events. Excessive use of Ritalin can cause brain damage, high blood pressure, psychosis and damage to other vital organs.
- Xanax: Developed for slowing brain activity, managing panic attacks and reducing stress, Xanax is often prescribed to students with anxiety and depression. Because it is widely prescribed and used, it is one of the easiest drugs to obtain illicitly. The problem with Xanax is it is extremely addictive and coming down off it can pose a serious challenge. Misuse of the drug can result into: insomnia, slurred speech, irritability, blurred vision, mood swings, memory loss, and appetite changes.
- Antidepressants: The academic and financial responsibilities of college can cause many students to feel stressed.Doctors prescribe antidepressants, such as Prozac and Zoloft, to help students overcome a mental health condition. But these drugs can lead to a habit of abuse or addiction. Constant abuse of these drugs can result into sleep problems, irritability, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, fatigue and dizziness.
- Ecstasy: It is also known as MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Ecstasy releases dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for feeling happiness and reward. It can be highly dangerous and its abuse can lead to serious consequences, including death.
Preventing the slide
As we all know strong addiction of drugs prevents a person’s ability to think through the consequences. College going students are particularly at the risk of picking up substance abuse habits easily. Therefore preventive measures should be taken by the families by establishing contacts on a daily basis. Parents should take initiatives much before their children start going to colleges.
Even for students who are heavily addicted to drugs, there are a variety of creative and versatile approaches available. Institutions of higher education, therefore, need to address the issues related to substance abuse prevalent on campuses. Education, prevention, counseling, and drug addiction treatment programs are the most commonly utilized. Approaches that promote increased understanding about substance use and the related effects, provide suggestions for alternative substance-free activities, and attempt to counter misconceptions around social norms comprise the foundation to effective program initiatives. Some of the campus-initiated anti-drug efforts may include alcohol awareness month, safe spring break, and substance-free social activities.