The highest risk category for young people is college-aged because they are involved in a very precarious time in their lives with stress and the onset of addiction is extremely high. With a unique set of risk factors, college students are prone to addiction, illicit substance abuse, and the misuse of prescription drugs. College students drink large amounts of alcohol and often drink more than five drinks in a row when they are heavy drinkers. They may drink this way only on weekends, but over time, it turns into a more frequent debacle of drinking more during the week, drinking before or after classes, and basically finding their drinking is out of control to the point of needing professional help. There are four risk factors to watch for that may contribute to college student addiction.
Less Family Support
Family and friends may stop being around when someone goes off to college. It is hard to be around them because they are away, at school, or even many miles away that makes it hard to connect with them. When parents are involved in the day to day life, the kids may be less influenced by peers. Without this oversight, they have to rely on their own sensibilities (and those of others) to help determine how they will navigate this journey without parents. Just because a parent disapproves of their behavior does not mean they will not do it. Without their presence there, they may do the complete opposite and go for the drink or use the drug one time because how will the parent know if they are not around. New freedom and space to do as they please leave college students prone to all sorts of things, including addictive behaviors over time.
Friend and Peer Influences
People they meet in college are likely to have more influence than parents. For the first time in their lives, they are away from everything they knew. College students often are influenced through observation of a culture in which substances are modeled through usage in parties, dorm rooms, and other places all around them. Nobody wants to be the one that doesn’t do anything differently. A variety of substances are more available than ever which makes it quite tempting to use the substances with friends but it is better to stay away from them rather than be pressured to use.
Everyone deals with stress. The biggest factor in dealing with stress is how a person navigates around it without using negative coping mechanisms. Not only are academics harder in college, but relationship issues and social challenges become complex. Many college students deal with stressful mental health issues and environmental stressors differently. They come into college often with mental health issues and challenges they face that are not addressed. The use of alcohol and illicit substances can be used to avoid stress, but also cover up trauma they may have suffered at home. A high percentage of college-aged students cite one of the reasons they use substances is to help them relax and feel better. While this may be true for a while, they might find over time they become dependent or addicted and no longer able to navigate the journey with a sense of being able to handle life without the drugs.
College is a time to experiment in all sorts of ways. It is a time to meet new people who have lots of other experiences and those students may begin to worry about their grades and how they are performing so they turn to study drugs to aid in their work. They may use stimulants as study aids. They may also begin to identify with others who are using drugs as study aids and will provide them with the drugs they want or need to study better. The problem becomes when they need it to do things other than study, they may find they are dependent and cannot quit the drugs without help.
Finding help for dependence or addictions starts with admitting a problem exists. It is hard to focus on fixing something when denial is the first modus operandi. Thinking about addictive behavior means looking at signs a loved one may be abusing drugs or substances, knowing the risk factors, and checking in with them to see how they are doing. Check-in with friends and people on campus to see how they are managing their new life. Don’t drop out of their life because you think they are doing okay now they are in college. They may be really struggling and in need of greater support than you realize. Step in and ask how they are doing so you can know for sure if they need professional help for any issues they might be having or are suffering from mental health issues which can also be a precursor for addiction in college. Knowing the risk factors and signs is a great first step to knowing how to best support a loved one and give them a chance at reclaiming their life from addiction.
At Burning Tree West, we support collegiate students in finding a place to belong. College students are susceptible to addiction for many reasons. There is hope for students to remain in school while working on their recovery. With our online classes and integrated program with 90-day treatment, we aim to keep college students focused on studies while healing from addiction. For more information, call us now at 855-997-1376