College is a time where many people have their first taste of independence, living away from home and without the supervision of parents. While this transition is rarely without bumps, bruises, and growing pains, it doesn’t have to end in addiction and substance abuse. But unfortunately, it sometimes does.
Drug and alcohol use are often considered a rite of passage for many individuals attending college. So, what does this mean for you? How can you navigate the personal and social challenges of the college experience without succumbing to this very real hazard?
Realistically, you’ve probably already been exposed to both drugs and alcohol in high school. But in college both are more heavily encouraged and available. This social environment can make it difficult for you to balance “fitting in” with keeping yourself in check.
Ultimately, college is too expensive and valuable to be a four-year vacation of partying, so keep in mind your priorities. Why are you here? Often, students go to the other extreme which is placing so much importance on this, they stress themselves out and turn to drugs and alcohol to help with anything from studying to sleep.
We’ve created this guide to help you navigate some of the common pitfalls on this journey.
This is how it works: Choose one of the statements below which best describes you. This will direct you to the applicable material. At the end of the article, scroll down and you’ll see some of the common myths that exist on this subject, and we’ll give you the actual data you can use to decide for yourself.
I’m New to College and Just Want to Know What to Expect
Let’s face it, it’s not going to be quite like the movies. College isn’t one big party. The majority of your time will revolve around class and study. But, depending on your where you attend, partying will almost be expected.
Alcohol will be the most common substance you’ll encounter and even though you aren’t likely 21 yet, access to booze will be much easier than in high school. This is because there are plenty of students over the age of 21 who supply alcohol to parties and events. Also, law enforcement tends to be more lenient so long as you’re being “safe”, and the community as a whole will likely be accepting of the fact that “you’re in college, so...”. Your parents may not even care anymore.
Expect friends to invite you to parties or get togethers where there will be alcohol, even more so on weekends. There’ll likely be marijuana use and possibly cocaine, MDMA, or pills being used in a more closed-door fashion. These are all examples of party drugs.
You may feel pressure to go to these events or will want to go. You don’t have to partake and can easily offer to be a designated driver. Your friends may surprisingly take you up on it.
A second group of drugs used in colleges are known as study drugs. These are things like Adderall, Ritalin or Vyvanse. Students often take these due to their stimulant effects so they can study or “focus” for longer periods of time. They are misused to cram for a test, recover from a hangover, etc. Avoid any offers of these, as they can create a vicious cycle of crashing afterwards and bombing the test anyways. Prioritize your study-time so you don’t have to play catch up.
As you can see from the above, a major portion of students don’t remain in college past the first year. While the totality of this can’t be contributed to consuming substances, it likely creates a major impact. The culmination of pressures that comes with a major transition like college isn’t made easier by over-indulging.
I’m Already in College, and Party Sometimes. When Is It a Problem?
When it comes to drinking and using drugs there is a definite threshold that when crossed should set off red flags that change is in order.
For drinking the best way to recognize if your activities have become unhealthy is to understand what “normal” drinking habits look like. According to the National Institutes of Health, men should not have more than 4 drinks a day or exceed 14 drinks per week. NIH claims that women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently th