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Alcohol and drug abuse have been known problems on college campuses for a long time. Students are challenged daily by living in a high-stress environment that often promotes and glorifies partying and other unsafe behaviors.
This combination can have profound adverse effects on individuals. It is also not uncommon for students to develop alcohol use disorders (AUD), substance use disorders (SUD), or mental health disorders as a result.
Many colleges have taken initiatives to increase recovery resources for their students. However, despite their efforts, college students rarely seek help for substance abuse problems.
According to a peer-reviewed academic journal, students who drink heavily prefer low-threshold (informal) intervention options as opposed to clinical (formal) treatment methods. Low-threshold options include:
Substance abuse is prevalent on all campuses across the country but is more common in public universities. The most commonly abused substances include:
Alcohol is the most frequently misused substance on college campuses around the country. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in three college students aged 18 to 22 engages in binge drinking.
Study drugs are prescription drugs misused by students to help them focus or stay awake. They are usually stimulants prescribed to people with ADHD. Study drugs are incredibly popular among college bodies and include:
Party drugs (also known as club drugs) are recreational drugs commonly associated with nightclubs, raves, and electronic dance music parties. The drugs are also popular at college parties, and include, but are not limited to:
Benzodiazepines, often referred to as “benzos,” are prescription medications most commonly used to treat anxiety and seizures, as well as relax muscles and induce sleep. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medicines in the U.S.. College students often misuse them for their sedative effects. Common benzodiazepines include:
For many students, it can be difficult to tell the difference between substance abuse and addiction.
Substance abuse is a misuse of a substance (ie. binge drinking or taking Xanax without a prescription), which may or may not escalate to addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease where an individual has developed a physical or psychological dependence on a substance.
In both cases, a student is at high risk of suffering adverse mental and physical health effects and may wind up hurting the people around them. However, the most effective treatment methods vary depending on the severity of abuse or addiction.
Common treatment options for substance abuse include:
Treatment for substance addiction requires more intensive treatments, such as:
There is no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment that will work for everyone. The type of treatment and pace of recovery will depend on many different factors.
However, there are five stages of recovery that everyone must go through:
Many students have little or no expendable income while they are studying. Luckily, most treatment facilities accept medical insurance. Insurance covers the majority of treatments, so the cost will depend on your insurance provider.
If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, it’s important that they get help right away. People who get help early on have a much higher chance of achieving a full recovery.
Some tips to help students find the best treatment include:
Lipari RN, Crane EH, Strashny A, et al. A Day in the Life of American Adolescents: Substance Use Facts Update. 2013 Aug 29. In: The CBHSQ Report. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2013. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK385060
Caldeira, Kimberly M et al. “College students rarely seek help despite serious substance use problems.” Journal of substance abuse treatment vol. 37,4 (2009): 368-78. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2009.04.005
Perron, Brian E et al. “Supporting Students in Recovery on College Campuses: Opportunities for Student Affairs Professionals.” Journal of student affairs research and practice vol. 48,1 (2011): 47-64. doi:10.2202/1949-6605.622
Buscemi, Joanna et al. “Help-seeking for alcohol-related problems in college students: correlates and preferred resources.” Psychology of addictive behaviors: journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors vol. 24,4 (2010): 571-80. doi:10.1037/a0021122