Addiction is no respecter of people, and this is especially true for college students. College is a difficult transition for many students throughout the United States and adding addiction on top of that complicates things even further, but this doesn’t mean that students are without hope. There are many options available to meet their needs as it relates to rehab, but one must first understand themselves and their circumstance in order to combat substance abuse properly. Many factors may contribute to a student’s substance use disorder.
Contributing Factors of Substance Abuse in Students
Each individual comes with their own story of how they got to be where they are today. No one person is a carbon copy of the other, but sometimes one person’s journey may at least share similarities with another. In one way or another, each person living their lives has struggled in some way, shape or form.
Some struggles even have a way of influencing poor decisions. Students in college may abuse alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with their struggles. Some challenges that push them there may include the following:
- Coping with poor mental health
- Major lifestyle changes
- Peer pressure
- Academic pressure
Coping With a Mental Health Disorder
Some examples of a mental health disorder include the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
According to some studies, 1 in every 5 adults suffers from a mental illness each year. Other studies have concluded that 3 out of 4 mental health disorders are developed before the age of 24. Someone as vulnerable as a college student may develop a mental illness while attending school (although it is worth mentioning that some forms of mental illness are chemical as opposed to circumstantial).
Although some cases of mental illness are chemical, there’s still no doubt that particular environments could worsen someone’s mental illness. For example, some people have experienced abuse, whether it be physical or sexual, others may have witnessed the death of a loved one. Either way, they both lead to a higher risk of developing anxiety or PTSD.
Escaping the prison of your thoughts is difficult. It is difficult to break free without treatment for many who live with mental health disorders. The hardships of mental illness and other pressures push them further towards drugs and alcohol abuse as a coping method.
Major Lifestyle Changes
Living with their parents is all kids know until it’s time to pack up and move out. Once they do so, they undergo one of the greatest transitions of their life. Moving out and starting a new chapter of life is a major shift in lifestyle. Because of such a big transition in their lives the chances of becoming depressed and feeling isolated increase greatly.
For college students, drinking heavily and doing drugs is easier than it’s ever been. There is no parental authority to answer to, and coming and going is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. In short, college allows students to find a new sense of freedom.
College is notorious for partying hard with drinking games and using drugs to have a good time. These sorts of activities increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. The pressure to fit in is real, but the cost could mean STDs, injury, death, or problems with the law.
Academics are important, and we’ve been taught that since we were children. Every aspect of life is dependant upon performance, and when someone fails to perform correctly, their worth diminishes, or so we think. This false perception of low self-worth leads to coping with substance abuse. Anxiety may result as a natural reaction to the academic pressure a college student may face. Because of this, they may end up turning to alcohol or drugs to numb this anxiety.
What Kind of Substances Do College Students Abuse?
Some substances of abuse common in college students include the following:
Am I Addicted?
You may be addicted if you experience the following:
- Tolerance increase
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of judgment
- Financial difficulties
Substance abuse is sometimes difficult to discern because of all the different factors that go into it. Often those who suffer from addiction aren’t even aware that they’re addicted. Among other reasons, this is why students should be careful concerning their participation in using certain substances. Sometimes individuals have blind spots when it comes to their behavior, which is why it is imperative to surround oneself with people who truly care.
Just as it is important to surround oneself with those who care for them, it is also important to keep a watchful eye on others. Many dangerous situations have been prevented when someone takes the time to act as a designated driver. No matter what kind of substance is being used, it should always be closely monitored so that innocent people don’t have to suffer.
What to Do if You or Someone You Love is Addicted
There are many different approaches someone may take when they know that themselves or a loved one are struggling with substance use disorder. It’s always difficult to determine what the next steps should be. In these circumstances, an intervention may be necessary.
An intervention is a planned, strategic conversation between someone who is suffering from addiction and others who care for them. The process should always be comfortable for everyone involved due in large part to the fact that the subject at hand is so heavy. For this to happen, interventions should be set in a comfortable environment. There should also be a professional present to moderate the conversation.
For an intervention to be successful, those involved in the process must maintain an attitude of complete understanding and grace. Interventions are not a time to get on a high horse; they are strictly to communicate in a loving way how their actions are impacting them.
What Are My Options As a College Student?
Because college is a time of frightening transition, finding the right resources can be a lot of pressure. Sometimes the pressure is so intense that the thought of having to find the right help paralyzes an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all method of treatment. Everybody is different and requires individualized care, but for some who can’t afford it, or aren’t sure they want to start there, there are other options available to meet their needs (at least for a time).
There are counselors available on many college campuses that are willing to talk to students who struggle with substance abuse. There are many support groups and therapists on many college campuses that can offer students support in this time of crisis. If you’re not sure where to find these resources, looking on the university’s website may be a proper way to start.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with addiction is that you are not alone in your fight. Many are in the trenches with you who are facing the same struggles and are willing to sit with you in this time of chaos. There are many options available to meet each student’s needs as it relates to substance abuse. Sometimes, being proactive is the best way to start. Just ask for help.
Some addiction treatment options include the following:
- Residential treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Detox treatment
Lasting anywhere from 28 days to six months, inpatient residential treatment is a method of treatment in which someone stays in a treatment facility for an extended amount of time. Those who participate are offered 24-hour access to professional medical personnel. This is beneficial for those who are suffering from a severe case of addiction.
Outpatient treatment is what is referred to when someone who has either completed an inpatient program or is suffering from a mild case of addiction is treated while living in the comfort of their own homes. This could last anywhere from 3 months to over a year and allows patients to receive 10-12 hours of weekly access to professional therapists and psychiatrists.
Medically assisted detox (MAT) helps to curb the symptoms of withdrawal. Many try to quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey, and because of this, they end up experiencing withdrawal. To be weaned off of a substance successfully, the body must learn to function without consistently receiving the chemicals a certain drug or drink may provide. Because of detox treatment, patients can curb their withdrawal symptoms while being closely monitored by professional health care personnel.
Break Free from the Chains of Addiction
The reality of substance use disorder is a tough pill to swallow. When dealing with a huge transition in life like moving away from home and doing school by oneself, saying no to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism is difficult. Not only does it set students free from the prison of their minds, but their peers are also behaving this way, making it seem okay.
It may not seem like it, but you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is imperative to remember that there is a way out. If you or a loved one are suffering from substance use disorder and would like to take the next step, you can contact us here.