College is often celebrated as a time to look forward to, as millions of young adults step out on their own for the first time. As these young individuals begin to make their way, several opportunities — good and bad — can fall into their laps.. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is one of those opportunities that often knocks early on in one’s college career. And for many college students, substance abuse is part of their college experience. For others, however, their substance abuse is a part of a bigger problem — addiction.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a disease that is characterized by chronic, continual substance abuse despite any negative repercussions that develop because of that use. Approximately 21 million people in the United States have an addiction to either alcohol or drugs, many of which include college students.
Risk Factors for Addiction in College Students
The number one risk factor for addiction in college students is exposure to the culture of experimentation that occurs on campuses around the country. Not only are college students trying to fit in with their new peer groups, but they are also at an age where their curiosity often overpowers their ability to be rational and reasonable. Therefore, simply being in an environment where substance abuse is occurring can be the riskiest of all factors for this age group. But, there are preexisting risk factors and potential risk factors for addiction that face college students:
Preexisting risk factors
Prior to entering into college, some individuals are already at risk for developing an addiction when they get there. Common preexisting risk factors for this group include:
- Substance use in high school
- History of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, etc.)
- Growing up with violence in the community
- Being bullied in school
Once students arrive at college, there will be a number of factors that can increase their risk for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. These include:
- Peer pressure
- Stress related to grades
- The development of symptoms related to one or more mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression (which is common at this age)
- Being a victim of sexual assault
It is also common for college students to become addicted to drugs or alcohol simply because they started experimenting and they found themselves hooked on the high. Addiction is an insidious disease that, when you are not looking, can knock you off your feet.
Signs of Addiction in College Students
Because of the culture of drinking and drugging that is present in colleges, it can be difficult to tell when someone is actually experiencing an addiction as opposed to using recreationally. These lines get even more blurred if everyone is experimenting with drugs and alcohol at the same time, as students’ gut instincts get compromised. The best way to determine if someone in college is addicted to drugs or alcohol is to be aware of what the signs are. Consider the following:
- Poor grades — Students who are preoccupied in their addictions will have difficulty maintaining good grades. They may struggle to stay organized, be in the right place at the right time, and get work done when they are supposed to. Their grades can begin to drop and their desire to try to bring them back up may be minimal.
- Mood swings — College is a transformative time for everyone, however college students who are experiencing several unexpected and/or unexplained mood swings may have more going on. Mood swings are a common symptom of addiction, as the ups and downs of the disease is often reflected through the user’s emotions and behaviors.
- Social withdrawal — A college student who was once social and who suddenly withdraws from others may be experiencing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The desire to use becomes greater than the desire to socialize, leading a person to isolate themselves so that nothing and noone gets in the way of their use.
- Sleep problems — College students follow tight schedules, so when someone’s sleep pattern becomes severely interrupted, it is likely due to an underlying problem. Depending on the substance that a student is addicted to, they may hardly ever sleep or sleep too much. Regardless, not getting enough rest and going to extremes with sleep patterns is a hallmark sign of addiction.
- Appearance — Again, lots of people are trying to figure themselves out during college, resulting in changes to everything from their interests to appearance. However, when a student’s appearance becomes disheveled to a point where it appears there is a lack of care for hygiene, something else may be going on. If addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is common for students to neglect brushing their teeth, bathing, cleaning their clothes, or taking care of their belongings.
The tell-tale sign of addiction in college students is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using. Of course, some students may have hangovers after going to party the night before, but a hangover is not the same as withdrawing. If a college student is in withdrawal, they will develop symptoms that only grow in severity unless they drink or use again. This occurs because the body has become dependent on whatever substance or substances the student has been abusing. When not using and when not under the influence, these symptoms can come on strong.
What to Do If You Know an Addicted College Student
If you know someone who is in college and who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the best thing you can do is express your concern and offer support. If it is a close family member who is struggling, attempt to have a non-judgmental sit-down conversation with them where you can be honest, sympathetic, and open to helping in any way possible. If you are the friend of someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, consider reaching out to their siblings, parents, or other friends who may be closer to them to get them the help and support they need.
Do not forget to take care of yourself at this time. Watching someone you care about grapple with addiction can take its toll on you both physically and mentally. Ensure that you are talking about your feelings, getting support from others, and making time to take care of yourself.
Do You Need Help? Call Us Right Now.
If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, call us right now. No matter where you are or what you are doing, reach out today. Time is not on your side. By contacting us immediately, we can get you started on your own personal journey of recovery that just might save your life.
Do not wait. Call today.