By Sandy Baker
As the Fall semester ends and college students return home for a few weeks, parents will have a chance to observe how college life has changed their teens. Some of these changes may be positive: greater independence or a newfound confidence. However, some parents may notice worrisome differences. Maybe your college student isn’t eating well; maybe they’re sleeping all day and seem withdrawn. While it’s natural that a semester at school can take a toll, parents should be attuned to changes that may indicate cause for greater concern: alcohol or drug withdrawal.
Considering the Statistics
If you don’t think your son or daughter could have an alcohol or drug use problem, consider the statistics from the 2016 Monitoring the Future College Students and Young Adults Survey provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- 32.4 percent of college students had engaged in binge drinking in the previous two weeks. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row within a short timeframe.
- 40.8 percent of college students admitted to being drunk in the previous month.
- 9.9 percent of college students used Adderall, a stimulant, to help improve their ability to focus or to avoid sleeping.
Also notable, a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration based on data from 2011 to 2014 reports that, every day in those years, 2,179 full-time college students drank alcohol for the first time and 1,326 used an illicit drug for the first time.
Could Your College Student Have an Addiction?
It’s not easy to believe that a son or daughter could be facing addiction. Take a moment to consider a few key warning signs that may point to drug or alcohol use.
- Does your student no longer seem interested in the things that they used to be interested in? Are they unwilling to meet with previous friends?
- Do they ask for a significant amount of money or routinely run out of funds?
Once they are home for a few days, do they seem to be jittery or restless? Are they frequently ill, unable to focus, suffering from sweats, or feeling nausea?
- Pay attention to where they go and what they do. Does your son or daughter seem to feel better when they return home after a night out?
- Does your child look significantly different? Typical signs of alcohol or drug use include being thinner than normal, flushed or pale, and having glazed over or blood-shot eyes, or ash-colored skin.
If you are unsure what is happening with your son or daughter, and you think alcohol or drug use may be a concern, speak to them about it. Many times, teens in trouble will talk to their parents about what’s happening and what’s wrong if not approached in an accusatory fashion. Other teens may need a more direct approach.
When Your Child Needs Help
If you determine that your college student may have an addiction, take action to help them right away. Most often, those who have developed an addiction are unable to simply stop using. Even if your child has been gone for just a few months, addiction can occur depending on the type of substance, the frequency of use, and the amount being used. Substances create a chemical change in the brain’s function, making it very difficult to simply stop using.
Does Your Child Need Help?
It’s easy to worry that interrupting your young adult’s college trajectory will make it harder for them to get back on track and graduate with a promising future ahead. But the sooner substance use disorder is treated, the more effective long-term treatment can be. Our team at The Ranch at Dove Tree will help your student achieve the health and wellbeing that will support their educational goals.