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Back to school season is upon us! Its pretty hard to believe, right? With temperatures still heating up across the nation, the thought of going back to school seems crazy and altogether too soon! And yet, there it is. Right around the corner.
In every store you look, parents are armed with school supply lists, purchasing the coveted items to ensure absolute coolness. The perfect backpack, the greatest outfit, the coveted sneakers – each item has the potential to make or break your popularity rank in the coming year!
The same goes for college families – the rush to get everything ready for the dorm and university harkens to the start of a new school year to come. For those returning, it’s a reunion to the familiar. For the new college student, welcome to a whole new world!
College is a place and a time for young people to begin their journeys as young adults. They are leaving home, knowing that they will not be the same when they return to it. It is a time to make choices towards opportunities that will shape their lives. With each new school year, however, the excitement of achieving your dreams can all too quickly be derailed when alcohol and substances enter the game.
Unfortunately, a new year of college also is also a time to let loose. Young adults fresh “out of the house” and away from the eyes of their loving family tend to push the boundaries, break free and experiment with the unknown. Temptations to cope, manage, balance, fit in and blend with the “right” (or, in many cases, wrong) crowd are masked behind alcohol and substances.
For some college students, instead of developing critical coping mechanisms, drugs become the solution to almost all problems. Do some Adderall to pull an all-nighter, stay up and finish that paper under the wire. Xanax is your new best friend when it comes to anxiety. Pop a Percocet to cure a hangover.
The disease of addiction is a progressive one. It is surprising to many struggling with addiction just how quickly it takes root. College students may believe that certain drugs help them maintain their day to day, providing an extra “boost.” Others need help “turning off” at night and a way to unwind from the stress of the day.
Whether it’s the overwhelming urge to drink to the point of blacking out, just to keep your reputation at a party, or the use of substances to try and pretend you are someone you are not, just to keep up. However you define your “why I use” – the lie that you need a substance, pill or alcohol to thrive and be “grown”- keeps more students trapped in a harmful cycle.
New societal norms of frat parties, bars and clubs offer a buffet line of alcohol and drugs; many dangerously laced with other substances. Students consider it harmless to snort a few lines, take a few pills and just “check out” for a while.
For many students going to college and getting their first hands-on experience at “adulting”, they may find themselves triggered into experiencing the world of substances and alcohol for the first time. In a recent study by SAMHSA, “of the 9.0 million full-time college students in the United States, 6.0 percent of used illicit drugs for the first time in the past year. On an average day during the past year, full-time college students used the following substances for the first time:
The mental health of college students is also in a delicate balance. New relationships, new friendships, higher highs and lower lows keep emotions cycling. Many college students find themselves facing the expectations of being an adult with the mental health of childhood not far behind. They feel as though they “should be able to handle this”, at this point in life, meanwhile misunderstanding that it isn’t just the classroom of college that is meant to be a learning experience. Friends and loved ones should keep a watchful eye for concerning behaviors that demonstrate partying has turned into full blown addiction. These signs can look like:
Although college provides a world of fantastic new experiences, neither substance use initiation nor substance abuse behaviors have to be a part of your college experiences. Knowledge is key. Ensuring your college students are empowered with information about the harm associated with substance use is paramount to prevention.
If you or a loved one have struggled with the use of substances or alcohol to get through college, take control of your life and make this YOUR year. We have the tools and resources to help you get there! There’s still time to get the treatment you need to start of the year right – strong, confident, successful and substance-free. You’ll be able to return to campus and make it a much better place than you left it, taking a stand against addiction and a step up for your own mental health!
Read More from Lindsey Simpkins:
Native American Healing at Oxford
Young Adults @ The Oxford Center
Finding Recovery In Nature