By Sandy Baker
Sending your young adult off to college can seem like such a rewarding experience. You’ve successfully navigated their high school years and feel proud of their accomplishments. But then a few months go by, and you’re no longer sure how they’re doing. They seem distant. They don’t look healthy. They are always in need of money. Are they just tired and stressed, or is something else happening?
A Common Issue
Drug and alcohol use in college students is very common. When it occurs, you may be unsure of what to do. How could your child be in this position after having left home with such a bright future ahead?
Why College Students Use Drugs
College students use drugs for numerous reasons, some of which even they may not fully understand. We’ve listed below a few of the most common reasons teens and young adults turn to drugs or alcohol (especially binge drinking) during their college years.
One of the most common reasons people engage in drug and alcohol abuse is because of societal pressures. They feel they have to do what their friends are doing or risk losing those friends. Students, especially those who are new to campus, want to fit in and feel at home. They want to do what everyone else is doing. And for probably the first time in their lives, they don’t have anyone nearby to tell them what to do.
Undiagnosed Mental Health Disorders
When a person steps away from their parent’s home and enters a whole new world, they are suddenly facing new challenges. For some, the stress of the transition reveals undiagnosed mental health disorders.
For example, teens away from home are likely to feel chronic anxiety. They feel overwhelmed, and this anxiety may trigger depression or bipolar disorder. Drinking or using drugs may help lessen these overwhelming feelings at first, but long-term use just exacerbates mental health conditions.
They Need to Get the A
Some students rely on scholarships to pay for their education. They may need good grades to maintain this funding. Or, they may need high grades to feel good about themselves or get into a certain major.
Students who want to have good grades without sacrificing time spent having fun may turn to drugs to give them more energy and focus–and to take away the need for sleep. Stimulants can come in the form of prescription ADHD medications like Adderall or Ritalin or as illicit drugs like meth and cocaine. Regardless of their form, stimulants are dangerously addictive when taken without a doctor’s guidance. Because it’s easy to develop a tolerance to stimulants, the person using them must regularly increase their dose or try the drugs in different (dangerous) combinations to get the same results.
Pressure to Binge Drink at Parties
Many colleges have worked hard to minimize the risk of binge drinking on campuses. However, it is still easy to access off-campus parties where binge drinking can happen. Many college students engage in binge drinking on the weekends because it’s what everyone else is doing.
Binge drinking – which involves drinking 5 or more drinks in a few hours for men or 4 or more drinks in a few hours for women – is very dangerous. It is also likely to lead to alcohol dependency.
Why Is Your Teen or Young Adult Using?
It is not always clear why a teen will use drugs or alcohol. They may be trying to hide past trauma. They may be continuing a dependency they developed in high school. Sometimes, the freedom of being away from home and having drugs and alcohol so accessible makes it easy to experiment.
If you believe your son or daughter is at risk, our collegiate drug treatment program can help them to get back on track. Call us today to learn more about the tools and resources we offer for college students and their parents.