College students are under an enormous amount of pressure to enjoy their daily lives while also getting excellent grades and preparing for their future in the workplace. In addition, their emotions are still developing. They’re expected to be able to hold everything together and do so well, and this pressure may be more than they can handle.
Extreme pressure creates mental health issues on campus, and this can lead to substance abuse issues as well. Most colleges address these issues directly, providing therapeutic services to the students that attend their school. However, many students will still develop addictions to illicit drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol while in college. Roughly 37% of college students have used an illicit drug to some extent and abused alcohol on a regular basis, according to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. When a substance use disorder occurs, it may become necessary for the student to check into a recovery center.
Recovery centers provide a chance for young adults to medically detox from harmful substances in a safe, supervised manner. Once this is completed, addiction specialists can also prescribe a course of therapy and medication to help the student feel better as they go about their daily life. They’ll also learn important coping skills and tools that will help them face life in recovery. Quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey can be dangerous, so this process must occur under proper supervision by skilled caregivers.
Stress and College Attendance
College should be a time for students to make new friends, learn about themselves, and discover their options for future education and employment. However, many students carry the weight of stress put on them by their environment, finances, teachers, and families, all while attempting to project the appearance of someone who has everything together. They’re forced to focus their attention in a myriad of directions. In college, they attempt to do their best academically, enjoy this time of their life, and plan a future career, all while they’re still learning to adjust to the demands society places on them. This can create more stress than they’re able to handle, triggering instances of drug and alcohol abuse.
Alcohol is often readily available on campuses, and illicit drugs may be more available than many students or parents expect. In addition, many prescription stimulant medications can be found on college campuses and are used off-label. These substances can provide both an escape from the stress of school and a method for enhancing academic performance, but both come with the chance of developing an addiction. Once someone is addicted, a lifelong illness has developed, and the individual will require the correct treatment to return to functioning appropriately.
The Myth of Perfection
Students may also experience a large amount of pressure to be perfect, or to appear to be, during their college careers. Researchers have recognized a trend among female college students to attempt to be “effortlessly perfect,” with high grades and professional achievements, all while looking their best and having great relationships with their family, partners, and friends.
Women who are unable to meet these standards may find themselves using drugs or alcohol to cope with their feelings of inadequacy. Others turn to stimulant medications in order to achieve the illusion of perfection. Because the entire idea is an unattainable myth, the cycle continues to perpetuate itself, often with the individual increasing the dose of medication as she tries to attain perfection.
This same myth can also lead women to weekend binge drinking in an attempt to relax after a week of holding themselves to impossibly high standards. These students may feel that the weekend is their only chance to relax, and they may drink increasingly larger amounts of alcohol to wind down during these times.
Drugs for Studying
Many college students also deal with a huge amount of stress about maintaining perfect grades during their college careers. They may take ADHD medications even if they don’t have the disorder, so they can stay awake for long periods to study. This can help them meet their academic goals, but comes with health risks and can cause amphetamine addiction. In addition, students without ADHD who take these medications may find that they need to regularly increase their dosage to be able to feel the same reaction to the medication.
These medications have a strong effect on students’ brains, allowing them to stay up throughout the night to study. Many students take the medications, especially during the weeks leading up to major exams, and the drugs are often bought and sold on campus. This can cause serious health issues as well as potential legal problems if an individual is caught with medication that was not prescribed for them.
The pills are typically sold in single doses on campus. In many cases, a person who has a prescription sells the pills individually. Possessing the drug without a prescription is a misdemeanor in most areas, while illegally selling the pills is a felony. This makes it especially important that students understand the legal risks associated with this type of behavior, whether they take the drug legally or have an issue with substance abuse.
When a student doesn’t need Adderall but opts to take it anyway, they can develop the following symptoms:
• Dramatic mood swings
• Trouble sleeping
• Uncontrollable shakes
• Decreased libido
Someone who has developed a dependency on Adderall may need to go through a rehab program for treatment. Facilities like First City Recovery Center can provide these students with the skills that they need to break from addiction and cope with life without the medication. Rehab can include detox, therapy, and medical supervision while they adjust to a sober lifestyle.
Binge drinking is another major issue on college campuses. Binging is simply the act of drinking too much alcohol in too little time. This is common during weekend parties, clubbing, and sorority and fraternity events. In addition, depressed or anxious students may binge drink alone in their rooms in the evenings or on the weekends in an attempt to cope with the stress that they’re experiencing. According to the CDC, binge drinking is most prevalent among those 18 to 34, and it’s twice as common among men.
The amount that it takes to create a binge depends on the gender of the individual. For males, having five or more drinks within two hours counts as a binge. For females, having four or more drinks within two hours is a binge. For women who are physically smaller than men, it takes fewer drinks to produce a higher blood alcohol count. One major risk that goes along with binge drinking is losing consciousness due to the amount of alcohol in the body, so it’s important that students understand the danger. While it’s not as dramatically dangerous to the brain and body, drinking in moderate amounts can still cause addiction.
College students often drink large amounts quite quickly as they’re out partying to relax and make the event more fun. Binging is often part of pledging or drinking games. Others like to binge in order to bond with the individuals around them. They may also drink more than they usually would to relieve symptoms of anxiety or depression. Peer pressure can play a role as well, especially if there is a game, party, or social goal involved with a specific amount of alcohol being consumed. Students might make choices that they might not otherwise make in the thrill of the moment, and then wind up drinking more than they’d intended.
College students may find that they’re under a large amount of pressure throughout the week. To some, getting drunk every weekend seems to help lift that pressure so they can relax and feel better. However, binge drinking is a major cause of alcohol poisoning, which is related to numerous deaths of college students each year. According to the CDC, an average of six people die of alcohol poisoning each day in the United States. If you have a student attending college, it’s vital to discuss the dangers of binge drinking with them.
Students who are already regularly binge drinking may need to visit a recovery center for alcohol treatment in order to learn new habits and skills. Checking into First City Recovery Center can help your college student learn the vital skills that they need to be able to cope with the stress of college life.
What Do Colleges Do to Help?
Many colleges and universities are carefully evaluating the conditions on their campuses that cause extreme stress and how it’s leading their students to drink and abuse medications. This allows them to treat the underlying issues that are causing the unhappiness, offering students additional therapy and outreach. In addition, colleges are publishing information about alcohol and prescription drug abuse on their websites.
During high-stress periods, such as finals weeks, some colleges are incorporating stress management programs and classes as well as various self-care and therapy options. These programs, which are designed to help students cope with their triggers, can include social gatherings, massage and bodywork classes, visits with therapy animals, and more. Schools are getting increasingly creative as they begin to better understand the link between stress and addiction. Students only stand to benefit from this investment of time and money. Before you enroll in a school or enroll your child in one, it makes sense to ask what types of programs they offer for treating addiction and managing stress as well as how many therapists and counselors they have on campus.
Taking the time to destigmatize mental health treatment can help students feel more comfortable getting the help that they need, making them less likely to seek out drugs or alcohol. Including these programs helps make treatment seem more normal. This way, students know that they can reach out when they’re experiencing addiction issues instead of feeling the need to hide them.
Treatment Options for Students
Students who have already developed an addiction to illicit drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol may need to check into a professional recovery center for treatment. First City Recovery Center offers many types of assistance for college students who are struggling to cope with the increasing pressure they’re experiencing. Our skilled professionals can evaluate the symptoms you or your loved one are experiencing, and then help develop a treatment plan for detox, recovery, and ongoing sobriety. Patients learn the skills they need to be able to enjoy a happy, sober lifestyle. Contact us today to learn more about the various programs that we offer.