Entering college begins a new stage in a person’s life: a time of discovery, of learning, of so much potential. At the same time, college can also be stressful, overwhelming and damaging to your physical and mental health. With such a large concentration of energetic young people seeking new experiences, there’s little wonder why substance abuse is so common.
In a culture where alcohol and drug use is glorified during the college years, entering such a situation can lead to addiction or be devastating for someone who has struggled with substance abuse through high school and is attempting to lead a sober life. What can colleges do to help their students combat substance abuse and maintain sobriety?
The Stigma of Collegiate Addiction
College students face a contradiction of societal values. On one hand, they are lauded as the bright minds of the future, the next generation who will lead the world into tomorrow. On the other hand, they are often depicted in the media as wild, party-minded libertines living without consequence.
Unfortunately, many colleges don’t like talking about the substance abuse issues affecting their students, and for their part, students often remain silent out of fear of punishment. This stigma can create an environment in which a student falls into addiction, or where someone who is trying to live a sober life faces constant pressure to participate in unhealthy or dangerous activities.
The Consequences of Inaction
Ignoring substance abuse in college settings has the potential to foster a dangerous atmosphere. Excessive drinking or drug use affects perceptions of what is permissible.
Statistics show that 97,000 cases of sexual assault occur each year in conjunction with college drinking. The majority of these are perpetrated against female students in settings that involve heavy alcohol or drug use.
Many instances of sexual assault are not reported to the college because the victim is afraid of being mocked or is ashamed and believes they are responsible. This is the sort of culture that develops when substance abuse on college campuses is ignored.
Breaking The Cycle: Encouraging Recovery
Some colleges are attempting to provide students with an environment that encourages, not stifles, recovery. The University of Texas is among them, having created the Center for Students in Recovery. This program is mostly student run and serves as a safe place on campus for students in recovery to spend time, socialize and help support each other.
These sorts of on-campus organizations are growing more popular as havens for people struggling with addiction and attempting to gain sobriety. Some colleges have special dorms set aside with a strict no-substance policy, while other colleges arrange sober activities. These initiatives help create a stable environment for students to have fun in safe ways, free from the presence of triggering substances.
Students need further education on personal responsibility, the effect of substance abuse on society and the importance of encouraging recovery. Without more programs like the Center for Students in Recovery, universities will continue to turn a blind eye toward substance abuse on their campuses, and students will pay the price.
If you know a college student who has or is developing an addiction, now is the time to talk to them and help them find the help they need.