Sobering Tips for College Students about Drinking and Drugs

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Hazelden offers tips to college students on dealing with drinking, drug use, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Dr. Joesph Lee, adolescent addiction specialist at Hazelden

Many students think drinking, smoking and other drug use are their rites of passage. But, there can be serious negative consequences, even for occasional users

Fall semester marks the time for millions of college students across the country to decorate their rooms, settle into class once again – and get drunk.

Of the 18.2 million students enrolled in colleges in the United States, nearly three-quarters of them reported drinking at least occasionally. “Many students think drinking, smoking and other drug use are their rites of passage. But, there can be serious negative consequences, even for occasional users,” said psychiatrist Joseph Lee, M.D., adolescent addiction specialist at Hazelden’s Center for Youth and Families in Plymouth, Minn.

The consequences of alcohol use and abuse affect nearly all college students, whether they choose to drink or not. Consider that, according to research, 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die annually from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes. Another 599,000 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol, and about 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking.

For students who think they don’t have a problem and are just out for a good time, Dr. Lee suggests keeping in mind whether drinking might be playing too big a part in their lives. “Missing class, blacking out or experiencing legal problems because of use, or using more to feel the effects are all signs that a student should get a handle on the situation by contacting the school’s counseling center,” he said. If a student isn’t ready to contact a counselor, keeping track of use for a month or completing a confidential online assessment are alternatives.

Pre-gaming – drinking several alcoholic beverages or using drugs before attending a party with the intent to get drunk – is a popular, and dangerous, practice among many college students. “Pre-gaming and binge drinking put students at greater risk for everything from assault and injury to death from alcohol poisoning,” Dr. Lee warned.

And, for underage students who avoid obtaining help for a friend who’s passed out for fear of getting caught for drinking themselves, Dr. Lee has this advice: “Your friend’s life could be in the balance. Even though there may be personal repercussions to consider, what’s more important?”

Next to alcohol, marijuana is the most used and abused drug by college students, and there’s a common misperception that it’s harmless. However, much like alcohol, marijuana affects people in different ways. For some, it has the effect of calming the nerves. For others, it can induce panic attacks. In fact, anxiety and panic attacks are the most common negative side effects of marijuana use.

If a student doesn’t know where to turn, or whom to trust, for straight answers to questions about drinking and drugs, Dr. Lee suggests seeking help from a college or university counseling center or the campus’ health services. They can also recommend other trustworthy services and resources. Reliable sources for information about alcohol and drug use, abuse and addiction include:

Hazelden, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1949, helps people reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. Built on decades of knowledge and experience, Hazelden offers a comprehensive approach to addiction that addresses the full range of patient, family, and professional needs, including treatment and continuing care for youth and adults, research, higher education, public education and advocacy, and publishing. It currently has facilities in Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York and Florida.


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Christine Anderson
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