By: Elysia L. Richardson
College is a time for trying new things and having new experiences. For some students, this willingness to experiment involves using drugs, legal and illegal, and drinking alcohol.
But what many college and university students may not realize is that amid the newfound freedom of being on their own away from home is the reality that recreational use and abuse of substances can end in a battle with chemical dependence and addiction. For other students who come to college already dependent on a substance, the promise of partying in an unsupervised environment can be a slippery slope.
According to data cited by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 90 percent of people with a substance abuse problem started smoking, drinking, or using other drugs before age 18.
What starts off as fun can soon become a big problem.
Student Substance Abuse Problem on College Campuses
Not everyone who tries addictive substances becomes addicted to them. Data show; however, that student substance abuse and addiction are a problem on campuses nationwide and that substance abuse rates are increasing.
According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Daily marijuana use has steadily increased among college students in the past two decades with 3.7 percent smoking marijuana daily in 1995, 4.0 percent in 2005, and 4.6 percent in 2015.”
Alcohol, the most commonly abused drug, is widely used among college students, and the consequences of that use range from problematic to deadly. Dangers of alcohol use among this population include injuries, sexual misconduct, fatalities, poor health, and academic impairment. NIDA’s data show heavy alcohol use is reported to be higher among college-age students than their non-college peers.
For those who drink too much or can’t seem to stop using marijuana or abusing the stimulant “study drug” Adderall, where do they turn?
Why Some College Students Forgo Addiction Treatment
While it’s easy to find out where to get drugs, students may not readily know where to go or to whom to speak with about substance abuse or their inability to stop using despite their best efforts. Some may not even realize their substance use has turned into substance dependency. But there are some students who just don’t seek out help for a substance abuse issue.
While the reasons don’t depend on the person, denial and lack of health insurance or money to pay for drug rehabilitation are often the top reasons. Despite needing and wanting help, it may be easier to put it off because access to addictive substances is too easy.
More Colleges, Universities Addressing Student Substance Abuse
Some colleges and universities across the nation are taking a stand and addressing student substance abuse on their campuses and offering students a college experience that aims to steer them away from addiction’s pitfalls.
According to the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, for example, some are responding to student substance abuse on campus by providing collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) that “offer a supportive environment within the campus culture that reinforces the decision to disengage from addictive behavior.”
At the University of Texas, students struggling with substance abuse can join the Center for Students in Recovery, which is conveniently located on campus. The center, largely run by students, offers a community where students in recovery, and those working toward recovery, can find support as they pursue their studies.
Students reach out and mentor one another, attend social outings together, and keep an eye out for signs of relapse. All who could benefit from the center’s services are encouraged to attend a support group meeting or a sober social event there or learn about volunteer opportunities.
The center’s success has led to the expansion of recovery centers at schools within the University of Texas.
Recovery Dorms Promote a Focus on Achieving Sobriety
Some institutions of higher learning are offering campus housing that promotes sober living.
At Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, there are recovery dorms on campus that help students transition to college after completing treatment for substance abuse. The university was the first in the nation to offer “substance-free” housing and activities for students in recovery.
New Jersey has been at the forefront of addressing substance abuse among students. In 2015, state Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that requires most state colleges and universities to offer sober-housing options to students by 2019.
An estimated 50 US colleges and universities now offer sober-living housing, according to a NorthJersey.com report. Rutgers’ Recovery Housing offers a 12-month housing option and access to programs for drug assistance and psychiatric services, among other things. Students are even housed in a building that has no identifying signage to protect their anonymity. They are expected to have a sponsor and attend at least two 12-step meetings a week while they live in the Recovery House.
Sober dorms are a “major new development in the recovery movement. They’re unique because they get to the heart of the beast,” Dr. Robert DuPont, a psychiatrist who specializes in drug abuse told PBS.org.
According to a report by PBS.org, the Rutgers model is now being applied to students who are dealing with opioid addiction. Oregon State University started offering substance-free housing to students in fall 2016.
Montclair State University in New Jersey has designated a floor in one of its dorms for students committed to their sobriety goals. Its Residents in Recovery program also connects students with psychological and addiction services as well as recovery support groups in nearby communities and activities in substance-free settings.
Results have been positive for some students. DuPont noted that students who enter recovery improved their grades to A’s after getting failing ones before.
Tips for Finding College Addiction Services
While more colleges and universities are using a variety of strategies to tackle student substance abuse, students can still begin their search for the best services and programs for them.
Start with your campus directory to look for a Collegiate Recovery Program that can offer information and direction on finding campus-based or community-based services. Look for resources, such as the school’s counseling and psychological services or its equivalent on your campus. Student health service professionals, the counselors at an on-campus ministry, and peer-to-peer counseling groups can also provide help.
If searching outside the campus community, look for addiction treatment programs that focus on young adults. A facility that focuses on young people and the issues they face will often effectively address needs that are unique to them.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse offers 10 key actions colleges and universities can take to prevent and reduce student substance abuse; among them are setting clear and consistent substance use policies and consequences of violations and working with community partners in prevention, enforcement, interventions, and treatment.
Are You Battling Substance Abuse? We Can Help You.
College and university students face daily pressures to successfully pursue their studies and navigate their social environment. This can be overwhelming to manage, especially for first-time college students who are away from home and seeking a support system.
Depression, anxiety, and stress can lead to drug and alcohol use to potentially lighten the load or feelings of isolation and insecurity. However, this is an invitation to developing substance dependency and/or addiction if use and abuse continue.
Delphi Behavioral Health Group has several addiction treatment facilities across the nation. Call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 899-5777 to speak with one of our addiction specialists to learn more about our drug treatment options and residential rehab facilities. We can even review your financial options to make addiction treatment affordable. Get on the path to recovery today.