Can a Taste of Independence in College Lead to Addiction?
For many high school graduates, college becomes the first real form of independence they’ve had.
They are living away from home for the first time without constant parental supervision. Along with this independence comes the stress of studying, exams, projects, and classes.
Add into this mixture choosing activities or clubs to belong to and a desire to have friends, and it’s guaranteed some questionable decisions are going to happen. Many of these decisions will revolve around alcohol and other addictive substances—either the choice to use them or the consequences afterward.
Independence Involves Learning the Consequences of Your Choices
Being able to make your own choices is very attractive to teenagers. Not having your parents dictating rules, curfews, and expectations—or waiting up for you to get home from a party—can look like a blessing to students heading off to college. However, there isn’t always significant thought put into the consequences of choices made when someone else is no longer looking out for your best interests. Being able to finally do things and not have to face one’s parents afterward may be enticing, but it can also be a painful lesson to learn.
It is difficult coming to the realization that your choices have consequences. Sleeping in and skipping a class leads to missing out on important information and risking lowered grades. Those grades can reach the point where you lose privileges to participate in activities, groups, or sports—and possibly even lose scholarship money.
Even the most basic choices can set a tone for the rest of your life. The little choices you make lead to the big choices you make. Most big choices on college campuses involve whether or not to indulge in drugs and alcohol.
Alcohol’s Influence on College Culture
College culture, especially today, is heavily influenced by alcohol. It is considered the most-abused substance on college campuses across the country. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 80 percent of college students drink and 75 percent of those college students are under the legal drinking age of 21. Binge drinking (consuming three or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting) is also a huge concern on college campuses, where the statistics show 50 percent of college students consuming alcohol engage in this dangerous behavior.
Getting drunk at a party can lead to multiple consequences including the inevitable hangover and doing things you regret with people you regret. Getting a DUI, getting arrested, or causing an accident are also possibilities if you choose to drive under the influence.
All of these can have lifelong consequences as regretted encounters can lead to pregnancy, legal troubles can lead to difficulties in finding a job or internship, and accidents can take the lives of people or change them in ways that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Understanding the Risk of Addiction
Although alcohol is the most common substance used on college campuses, it’s far from the only threat posing a potential for addiction. Marijuana, psychedelics, stimulants, pain relievers, antidepressants, anabolic steroids, and prescription medicines are also frequently abused by students.
Among the most misused prescription medicines are ADHD medications and opioids. Studies show that nearly two-thirds of college students with a valid prescription for so-called “study drugs,” meant for the treatment of ADHD and perceived by students to sharpen focus, have shared their medicine with fellow students who do not have a prescription. Prescription opioids such as Vicodin and OxyContin are the most dangerous of the pain relievers to abuse. Not only are they highly addictive, but according to the CDC they account for 75 percent of overdoses due to prescription drugs on college campuses.
No matter how wondrous it may seem to have the freedom and independence to make your own decisions, it is important to always be aware of the potential risks and consequences. Weighing these risks against the fleeting pleasure of the moment can mean the difference between a mistake you might regret for the rest of your life and a college experience you will never forget.
Getting the Help You Need
Understanding limits, learning how to handle peer pressure, and knowing when to ask for help can alleviate much of the stress that fosters substance use. Getting help to overcome a substance use problem is paramount in ensuring your college years are memorable for the right reasons.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, know that there are resources available to help. Most college campuses have a number of people you can talk to who can either help the problem or offer advice on who to see about proper care. In some cases, this may include attending residential treatment at a specialized facility such as Victory Addiction Recovery Center.
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