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Types of Help Available for Substance Abuse in College Students

Substance abuse in college students is a chronic problem on campuses around the country, one that is increasing by the year. In 2014, one study revealed that daily marijuana use among college students is at its highest rate since 1980. It is the first time that daily marijuana use has surpassed daily cigarette smoking in that age range. But there is help for college-aged students with substance abuse, or addiction, problems.

Willpower alone is rarely enough in the way of treatment to help a college student stop using drugs, and stay clean going forward. Treatment for drug abuse is never one size fits all. Mental and physical conditions of the student must be taken into account, as well as their cognitive and behavioral functions. The influence of family and friends, and how powerful that influence is, also plays a role.

The Best First Step Towards Recovery

substance abuse college students

Substance abuse in college students is a serious problem.

The best first step when treating college students with a substance abuse problem is to take them to a psychiatrist who specializes in adolescents and young adults. The doctor will be able to analyze and identify the seriousness of the situation and recommend a course of treatment that could work for that student. However, no treatment comes with a 100 percent guarantee of success.

There are also outpatient clinics where a student can seek help and get therapy, or even medication if deemed necessary. Continued visitation to the clinic is necessary for such a treatment path to have a chance at being successful.

Some colleges are now providing dorms exclusively for students in recovery. Students can still attend college as they normally would, but they have the extra benefit of living in a substance-free dorm with other students in recovery, experiencing the same troubles and being able to talk it out with one another. They also have one another at the ready for support in moments of crisis.

Other resources include 12-step programs, as well as other peer support groups and self-help programs. There are specific programs for many different kinds of drug and alcohol abuse, such as:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Dual Recovery Anonymous – Recovery from joint chemical dependence and emotional or mental illness
  • SMART Recovery® – 4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors by teaching people how to change self-defeating behavior

There are also groups for friends and family of an abusing or addicted college student:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups help family and friends protect themselves from the effects that someone else’s drinking can inflict on them. Alateen is part of the Al-Anon Family Groups, except that it is for teenagers, so that they can talk to people their own age, who might be experiencing the same things the same way.
  • Nar-Anon works on the same premise as Al-Anon, except it is centered around the abuser’s use of narcotics.

Identifying Possible Abuse or Addiction in a College Student

If armed with the right information, sometimes a friend or family member of a college student can help before the student has lost control of him- or herself’s ability to control his or her environment. Acting withdrawn, being frequently tired or depressed, or acting hostile for no particular reason can all be signs that a college student is developing a drug-related problem. Other signs include:

  • Hanging out with new friends suddenly
  • Having a lack of interest in grooming
  • Academic performance begins to suffer
  • Missing classes or skipping school
  • Losing interest in favorite activities
  • Getting in trouble in school or with the law
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

If a student’s drug or alcohol abuse has accelerated to addiction, treatment at a rehab facility may be required. There are rehab facilities geared specifically towards the recovery of adolescents and young adults. The student would be placed in an inpatient environment, where he or she would receive one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy. Students would engage with one another and share their stories and feelings. This can eliminate a feeling of being alone in recovery and can harbor the beginnings of trusting other individuals to help them, alleviating part or all of any paranoia that may have developed as their abuse of drugs and/or alcohol progressed.

Staying Clean

Once a student has taken control of his or her substance abuse, there is the life-long effort at staying clean. A primary directive in staying sober is to stop hanging out with the friends who led you down the path of abuse in the first place. Finding new friends, with healthy interests that interest the student will go a long way on the path to maintaining recovery. Other suggestions include:

  • Picking up a new hobby. Doing things that challenge a student’s creativity can spark his or her imagination. Perhaps he or she should try something he or she always wanted to try.
  • Adopting a pet. Pets are a responsibility and require a routine. They need a caretaker who is able to care for them reliably. Animals also make you feel loved and needed, which can be very reassuring and make a student want to care for them properly. They also need to be exercised, which forces a student to both get out of the house and get some exercise.
  • Getting involved in the community. Replacing substance abuse with attendance at drug-free neighborhood groups or volunteer activities prevents boredom, which can create triggers leading back to substance abuse..
  • Looking after your health. Getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy all keep energy levels up and stress levels down.

When a student gets the treatment that helps him or her feels good, and feels good about him- or herself, drugs are much less of a temptation, making it easier to stay sober.

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