By Joey Kang
Posted in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery
The Collegiate View is a reoccurring blog series highlighting mental and behavioral health issues affecting today’s young adults and college students. This series features original blog posts written and researched by current college students working towards a degree in psychology or a related field.
Substance Abuse in College Students, Why is it so Common?
For many young adults, the transition from high school to college can be an overwhelming experience. First-year students must adjust to new living arrangements, new schedules, new peers, as well as the added weight of increased independence and responsibility. With all the changes and chaos going on in the life of a new college student, it is not hard to see how some students fall into the trap of substance use and addiction. College is also an environment that can be rife with academic or peer-driven pressures that could prompt a student to begin abusing substances.
It is not unusual for someone entering college to have preconceived notions about college life. For many, excessive consumption of alcohol and experimentation with drugs are just part of the college experience and might even look down on those who choose not to participate. Attitudes like this can normalize the abuse of substances and downplay the risks of addiction and chronic use of drugs and alcohol. Institutions like fraternities or athletic event tailgating provide easy access to alcohol and further intensify the atmosphere of irresponsible drinking behaviors. Social pressure to drink and abuse drugs are not always easily avoided, and some students may be unwilling to face the backlash that might accompany abstaining from risky behaviors.
College is the first opportunity for many young adults to have total control over their lives free of parental restrictions. This new freedom can lead to poor decision making and taking unnecessary risks when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Students of college-age do not have fully developed brains and can struggle to control impulses and consider future consequences of their actions. These factors can help explain why substance abuse is such a common problem on college campuses.
Unfortunately, the consequences of these behaviors can be severe and long-lasting. In a survey of college students, severe mental distress, extreme daytime sleepiness, poor academic attitude, and low GPA all correlated with substance abuse. Students who reported good grades, low stress, and healthy amounts of sleep were correlated with no substance abuse. Students who abuse substances are often trapped in a vicious cycle of mental distress self-medicated with drugs or alcohol that can actually exacerbate their impaired mental functioning. Students are often unaware of the addictive nature of their risky behaviors when they begin using substances and can get caught in a dangerous cycle of abuse.
Navigating the stimulating and unique environment of college life can be confusing and even dangerous. Many young adults have fallen victim to the temptations of drugs and alcohol and eventually pay the price. For families that may have children struggling with addiction, there are options for treatment and recovery. Students can be admitted to in-patient residential treatment facilities that provide a safe drug-free environment as well as therapeutic coaching and support. Patients may also choose to bring on case managers or therapeutic recovery coaches to help guide them through their recovery as well as coordinate care and provide support. Whatever route to recovery a family chooses for their child, the most important thing is that young adults can achieve a level of independence to thrive in their transition to adulthood.
About the Author
Joey Kang is an OPG Business and Marketing Intern currently enrolled at Boston College. Joey’s experience as an athlete showed him first hand the destructive effects of eating disorders and body image issues. These experiences have led him to research and write on this topic in hopes to shed light on this topic and help end the stigma associated with mental health and sports.