College Students: Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
In 2001, research found that college students across the nation suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. There were 310,000 students using marijuana, 636,000 using cocaine and heroin and 1,717 unintentional deaths from alcohol related injuries. As a result, numbers have grown of parents seeking addiction treatment for their children.
Freedom from Parental Control
For students, the college living experience means no rules, no nagging, no curfew and they are in control of their decisions. A student that stays home for college also feels a sense of independence when scheduling time for classes, eating, sleeping, and hanging out with friends. Unfortunately, our colleges are over saturated with the party lifestyle which is accompanied by drug and alcohol abuse. Some of our students are getting lost in the college addiction epidemic and heading towards the need for substance abuse rehab.
College Peer Pressure
College students struggle with many different types of pressure. Pressure can be put on a student from parents, teachers, friends, and self. The sources of pressure stem from academics, career choice, financial aid, and peer pressure.
Peer pressure is the most stressful of the four sources. Qualities of peer pressure are found throughout each type of college stress. For example, students may compete with each other for better grades; some students may be able to make decisions regarding career more quickly than others; and some students have to work hard to support themselves. Peers will often joke around about these types of differences and each student responds differently. Students may endure unhealthy friendships and romantic relationships because of peer pressure. The three negative components of peer pressure in college life are:
- Fear of loneliness- Insecurity the student feels about friendships and fitting in may be rooted in fear of being alone. This can often lead a student to continue unhealthy friendships which are destructive.
- Poor Stress Management- Students are extremely busy with classes and feel overwhelmed. Hanging out with friends and using substances becomes an outlet for stress.
- Poor Decision Making Skills- One bad decision leads to the next and eventually the student will feel overwhelmed by his or her choices. For example, choosing to party over being responsible may result in the choice to withdraw/drop a class to avoid a failing grade.
Wanting to hang out with friends and be accepted, relieving stress and making the decision to use alcohol and/or drugs happen simultaneously. Peer pressure anddrug and alcohol abuse are common contributing factors of a college student who enters addiction treatment.
Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
Peer pressure evolves when one person feels bad about saying no to a friend’s request. The student goes along with the request despite knowing that it is not the right choice. For example, students will often influence each other to use substances despite school responsibilities. Eventually, students will schedule classes around substance abuse activities with friends.
Games played when hanging out with friends involve binge drinking and experimenting with drugs. Fraternity and sorority parties are a guaranteed drinking event, tail-gating before games usually involves substance abuse, and pool parties at the off campus housing are characterized by drunkeness. Regular participation with friends in the substance abuse lifestyle leads to risky behaviors.
Alcohol and drug use is increasing steadily on our college campuses. Warning signs of college students with a drug and/or alcohol issue are:
- Decline in academic performance
- Withdrawing/dropping classes regularly
- Asking for money regularly
- Conflict with parents
- Sexual promiscuity
- Drunk and disorderly tickets
A student who continues to use drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences may be struggling with addiction. Issues that could be permanently damaging such as problems with the law, health or academia may warrant addiction treatment.
An Overview of Addiction Treatment for College Students
A college student who is attempting to quit using drugs and alcohol in the same party environment may have a difficult time abstaining. Peer pressure to continue using substances may be hard to avoid. It is the best option for a student in this position to leave their environment and go to a residential treatment center. Addiction treatment for a college student should include alcohol and drug detox, substance abuse rehab, an aftercare plan and alumni meetings.
- Detox– Detox is the process of removing toxins from the body. If the student’s body has become physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, he or she will need medical assistance to quit using substances safely.
- Substance Abuse Rehab – The student will be monitored by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and therapists throughout their stay. Individual and group counseling will address underlying issues such as fear of loneliness, stress management and healthy decision making. Daily relapse prevention and life skill educational lectures will be provided to help the student build skills needed to remain clean and sober.
- Aftercare Plan- In a quality comprehensive substance abuse rehab the therapists will work with the students and family members creating an after care plan to decrease relapse risk after discharge from rehab.
- Alumni Meetings- Students will be called regularly and invited to participate in alumni meetings. Staying connected and intermittently updating drug rehab counselors about your recovery after addiction treatment is good for relapse prevention. Although alumni services are extremely important for continued care, not many addiction treatment programs offer these services.
If you are a student in college suffering from addiction please call a Recovery Connection coordinator at 800-993-3869. Many of them are in recovery and will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding addiction warning signs and treatment options.