By Sandy Baker
Students go to college to learn and develop new skills for their chosen career path.
Yet, when they arrive on campus, they have much more to experience. From new relationships to the constant ability to make their own decisions about how to manage their time, students can often find themselves overworked. Most of the time, college life is about studying hard and getting good grades, but even those students can tax themselves too far.
This is when stimulant use becomes a concern. It’s not uncommon for students facing large projects and intense pressure to turn to substances—including illicit drugs—to help them to stay awake longer and have more energy to meet the day’s needs.
Stimulants do as their name states. They help to stimulate the brain to move faster and accomplish more. These drugs, which are often given to people who have conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can give college students the push they need. Yet, they are habit-forming and dangerous to use when not prescribed.
The Reality Is These Drugs Are on Campus
A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found easy access to nonmedical prescription stimulants on most college campuses. More so, another study, this time reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that as much as one third of all full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 engaged in substance use, with about one in five using an illicit drug to do so. As a parent, recognize two things:
- Students have easy access to stimulants, illicit drugs, and alcohol on college campuses in just about every location.
- These students are pushed and stressed to their maximum level without as much adult supervision—making them prone to peer pressure and drug use.
Signs Your College Student Is Using Stimulants
As a parent, it can be hard to recognize that your student may be relying on prescription drugs to get them through the day. Yet, this only means you need to be a bit more vigilant to know what’s really happening.
These are the most common signs of stimulant abuse. Do you see these in your college student?
- When you see your student, look at their eyes. Dilated pupils and red eyes are not just a sign of not getting enough sleep.
- Hyperactivity is very common. Sometimes, you can hear this in their voice. They are rushed, hurried, and even very excitable. This may be due to an unusual amount of stimulants in the body.
- They have significant weight loss. Stimulants often depress the digestive system, helping to keep people from being hungry. They may not eat much and are losing weight.
- They are restless. This tends to carry over even on those weekend trips. Your student may feel anxiety, as well, if he or she doesn’t have access to the drug of choice.
- Aggression is a sign of overuse of stimulants. They may turn angry for what seems to be no reason.
It’s also important to recognize that initial symptoms may seem minor. However, in the long term, overuse of these drugs can cause a variety of side effects as well as dependency.
Stimulants can cause damage to the blood vessels, damage to the lungs and kidneys, and high blood pressure. Over time, overuse of stimulants can cause malnutrition and psychotic behavior. It doesn’t take an overdose for a stroke to occur either. This potentially deadly side effect can happen at any time.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Teen Has a Substance Use Disorder
There is not always a lot you can do from a distance. However, if you feel your child may be in need of help, get it right away. Treatment programs exist that can help these students to remain in school and to get the support they need. At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we offer a comprehensive residential drug abuse program that may help your student to detox and get back on their feet.
Don’t overlook the needs of your college student. Dependence on stimulants is a very real problem and not one they can simply stop on their own. However, treatment options exist that can provide you with peace of mind and them with the care they need.