The teenage and college years are considered by many to be a time of experimentation, learning, and fun before one enters the “real” world.
While this is a more carefree time in one’s life bolstered by increased freedom and autonomy, the consequences of choices made can affect you for years – possibly even the rest of your life. While substance use is likely to happen during this time, it poses many threats to your future.
Free to Make Choices, But Not Free from Consequences
One of the things children and (even more so) teenagers look forward to is the ability to make their own decisions that comes with growing up. Often, parents will try to explain how to balance recreations and responsibilities, but it doesn’t really sink in until the time comes for them to be on their own and the first big decision or problem comes along.
An especially daunting task is balancing social life with studies at college. High schoolers still must abide by their parents’ house rules and are still being inundated with their parents’ advice and reminders. College students living away from home are no longer under a watchful eye that is responsible for them. Hence, many students fall victim to the pressures of substance use and may seriously endanger their future or their health by these choices.
Science has proven that the human brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25. This means that substance use in high quantities or for extended periods of time can actually alter the brain’s development. In addition to this, there are studies that show many college students display indicators of substance abuse. This disease, left untreated, leads to a multitude of health risks depending on the substances they are becoming addicted to.
Negatively Proportional: More Substances = Lower Grades
Studies have shown that students – whether high school or college level – that have tried alcohol or other substances have lower grades and GPAs than those who have not. As the amount of substances used and frequency of use increases, those grade levels and GPAs drop exponentially.
There is also research that proves using “study drugs” doesn’t increase test scores or GPA the way students think it will. These so-called “study drugs” are generally distributed in the form of ADHD medications procured illegally by a student without the disorder from someone who has a valid prescription. Sometimes, the person with the prescription will sell his or her medication for cash. Other times, it is stolen or pilfered by a friend or roommate then sold.
There are dangerous instances of these medications being ingested in ways outside their intended use. They may be snorted, smoked, or injected. It is also a danger when using the drugs in this way that they are combined with something else to enable the seller to distribute a larger number of doses for a higher profit. This can cause a number of medical problems above and beyond taking a prescription that your body doesn’t need.
How It’s Always Been Doesn’t Make It Right
While many learning institutions have guidance in the form of peer and professional assistants, they are generally not as hands-on as parents. Part of this is because of the sheer number of students assigned to every resident assistant and professor advisor. Part is because of avoidance.
Some colleges and universities have begun to adopt preventative measures and counseling services for students that find themselves or a friend nursing a substance use problem. However, a disproportionate number of alumni, professors, deans, and board members choose to turn a blind eye to the problem of substance abuse. “That’s just how it is” is used as an excuse for the students’ destructive behaviors.
Alcohol use especially is a communal problem, as there are destructive behaviors associated with drunkenness. Rape, fights, vandalism, drunk driving, and blackouts are just some of the effects caused by too much alcohol. Injuries, alcohol poisoning, and even death (or causing the death of another, particularly in the case of driving while intoxicated) can be a result. All of these things will affect people for years, if not haunt them the rest of their lives.
Many colleges and universities are hesitant to put limits or set restrictions for on-campus alcohol use, especially in the case of fraternities and sororities – where some of the largest number of drinking incidents occur. It is also a challenge for administrators to enforce regulations, as they perceive their main job as accumulating money and donations for financing the institution.
Professors have classes to teach on top of attempts to derail students’ poor decisions. RAs have their own coursework to study for while still being available as a peer counselor for their assigned students.
Be the Voice of Reason
Never be afraid of speaking up when you see something happening that could end in a dangerous situation. Telling a friend they’ve probably had enough to drink might make them angry at you in that moment, but they will likely thank you in the morning when they aren’t suffering hangover effects like others. Taking away someone’s keys so they can’t hurt themselves or anyone else when they’ve overindulged – or offering to drive them home – could save lives.
There are many resources for students who want to help their peers battle alcoholism or addiction. If there isn’t yet an organized group committed to this cause, discuss how to start one with faculty and administration.
Getting the Help You Need to Stay Sober
If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, know that you’re not alone. There doesn’t need to be shame in seeking help to overcome something difficult. If you think you may have a problem with substance use, there are ways to get the help needed to find recovery! At St. Gregory Recovery Center, trained counselors can help you develop the skills you need to enjoy a sober future.