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The Problem of College Drug Abuse
College students make up one of the largest consumer groups of drugs. Open attitudes toward drug abuse, high anxiety during test time, newfound personal freedom, and frequent partying can easily be incentives to try or use substances. The National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reports 37% of college students have used an illicit drug (Opioids, Stimulants, Benzodiazepines, Cannabinoids, Barbiturates) and abused alcohol on a regular basis. Despite its frequency, college drug abuse is a major problem with very serious consequences.
The exposure to a variety of people in college, stressors of adjusting to new environments, participating in fraternity and sororities, and many other aspects of student life increase the risk of college drug use disorders. While consuming drugs, students have reported committing risky actions like driving while under the influence of an illicit substance or getting involved in criminal activity.
College Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana is frequently misused to relieve college-related stress, at the cost of risking academic progress and school-related responsibilities. The percentage of college students who abuse Marijuana increased from 3.7% in 1999 to 4.6% in 2015. Marijuana is by far the most widely used illicit drug among college students, with 1 in 22 college students using it on a regular basis. Marijuana use is not limited to any specific group of college students. For example, Marijuana use is common in male college lacrosse players according to a NCAA study.
The prevalence of Marijuana on college campuses, and the frequency of college students attending concerts and festivals and trying Marijuana makes it an easy substance to access. Unique risks come with marijuana in addition to its illegal statuses in some states, including:
- Impaired short-term memory
- Poor motor skills
- Risk of incarceration if used in a state which prohibits use
- Lowered school performance
- Reduced decision making
- Weight gain (extreme hunger called “the munchies” encourages increased appetite after marijuana use)
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College Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
The interest in Marijuana use also puts individuals at risk of exposure to Synthetic Marijuana with dangerous side effects. Also known as Spice or K2, Synthetic Marijuana blends are synthetic chemicals that are legal in the United States but can be extremely harmful. The Synthetic Marijuana is a popular substance among college students who want to feel similar effects to Marijuana, but who don’t want the legal risks. This chemical is easy to obtain and is available in edibles, drinks, or can be smoked. According to some studies, as many as 1 in 10 college students admit to regular Synthetic Marijuana use. However, using Synthetic Marijuana can be very dangerous, possibly even deadly. Side effects include:
- Heart attacks
- Kidney damage
- High blood pressure
Colleges Students and Stimulant Abuse
Illegal stimulants like Cocaine and prescription stimulants like Adderall are very commonly abused among college students because of the dopamine they cause the brain to release and the added mental focus they can temporarily provide. Stimulants are classes of chemicals that alert the central nervous system to enhance the functions of the brain.
Common symptoms of stimulant abuse are:
- Heightened energy
- Decreased appetite
- Nervous excitedness
- Weight loss
With the high number of students diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin are frequently prescribed. Additionally, many students abuse these drugs illegally in order to help them study, most often acquiring them from fellow students with a prescription. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry noted Adderall is most commonly misused by people between 18 to 25 years old. College students were twice as likely to misuse Adderall considering the heavy academic workload and the mistaken belief it can enhance academic performance.
Rates of college Cocaine use have increased from 2.9% to 5.1% in recent years. By senior year, 13% of college students have tried Cocaine.
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Consequences of College Drug Abuse
College students who abuse drugs risk poor academic functioning in a time where they are developing skills for the real world. They need the ability to focus while maintaining a healthy lifestyle for success. Drug abuse can render them unsuccessful in college and create:
- Drug tolerances and addiction
- Spending too much money on drugs
- Experimentation with other substances
- Risky behavior
- Aggressive behavior
- Feeling guilt or shame
- Increased substance use
- Accepting attitudes toward drug abuse
Other consequences, like declining health, financial strain, and family fights can impact a student’s life for the long term.
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If left untreated, harmful substances can wreak havoc on a college student’s mind and body. Students may experiment with other drugs once they have formed a drug tolerance. Once the tolerance deepens, students can then develop a dependence or craving, thus becoming addicted. Stopping the descent into chemical substance disorders can be challenging, but not impossible.
Rehab facilities offer patients access to counseling to tap into underlying concerns, which possibly fuel dependencies, in addition to directly treating many symptoms of addiction. Contact a treatment provider to receive information and guidance on your next steps towards recovery.
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