During the transition out of high school and onto a college campus, many students experience a feeling of freedom. This change can be incredibly exciting, but some college students also abuse their newfound independence.
Between the pressure of achieving academic success, getting involved in activities, and meeting new friends, college students can stumble into some bad habits.
Unfortunately, college students are highly susceptible to alcohol abuse and addiction.
More than one-third of college students admitted to using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol on a regular basis.
Whether you are a college student yourself or are the parent of a young adult that is attending a university, it is vital that you understand the dangers of alcohol addiction.
Stats About Alcohol Abuse on College Campuses
College students have a high propensity for consuming and abusing alcohol. Approximately 54.9% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 have consumed alcohol in the past month, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
While overindulgence in alcohol is dangerous enough on its own, it can also lead to other adverse outcomes, which include:
Physical Injuries After Alcohol Abuse
Binge drinking and overindulging in alcohol reduces inhibitions. While many college students use alcohol as a social crutch in order to help them “loosen up”, the consequences can be severe. Every year, nearly 2,000 college students die as a result of alcohol-related accidental injuries.
Alcohol Abuse and Physical Assaults
Alcohol does not only encourage college students to engage in risky behavior; it also increases the risk of engaging in physical violence. Drunken brawls are an all-too-common occurrence across the nation’s campuses. Roughly 696,000 students are the victims of alcohol-related assaults annually.
The Role of Alcohol in Sexual Assaults
According to USA Today, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in date rapes and sexual assaults. While “date rape drugs” like Rophynol and GHB are a genuine danger, nearly 100,000 alcohol-related sexual assaults have been reported by college students.
Declining Academic Performance Due to Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse has been directly linked to a decline in academic performance. Students that abuse alcohol and other substances are also at an increased risk for attrition.
Perhaps more concerning, a recent study demonstrated that 21% of undergraduate students “displayed a likelihood of having a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.”
Common Causes of Alcohol Abuse in College Students
The problem of alcohol abuse on college campuses is a complex one. There are many potential causes for the prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse among college students.
Some of the most likely causes include:
Many freshman college students have had limited exposure to alcohol or drugs, if any, prior to their first year at a university. In response to their newly acquired freedom, they may be overwhelmed with curiosity. This curiosity often drives them to try alcohol and other substances for the first time.
When combined with other risk factors like peer pressure or a family history of substance abuse, this curiosity can lead students to develop an addiction.
Pressure to Succeed Academically
Transitioning to college can be incredibly stressful. Academically gifted students that have always performed at the highest levels may feel even more pressure than their peers.
While students in this category may not turn to alcohol as an outlet, they may rely on “study drugs” like Ritalin or Adderall.
Underlying Mental Health Issues
Young adults that suffer from underlying mental health issues are at an incredibly high risk of abusing various substances.
While mental health disorders do not cause substance abuse or addiction, some college students use alcohol to self-medicate. Alcohol and other drugs may offer short-term relief but will eventually worsen the student’s mental state.
As part of their efforts to fit in, many college students join a sorority or fraternity. While these groups can offer a great sense of camaraderie, they are also known for encouraging binge drinking and drug use. Students that live in sorority houses or frat houses might even be more susceptible to alcohol abuse and binge drinking.
Lots of colleges are known for their raging parties and a culture that revolves around alcohol consumption. This peer pressure can draw new students into the mix and cause them to develop a bad relationship with alcohol.
When surrounded by hundreds of students that are drinking alcohol and abusing drugs, incoming freshmen may have a tough time resisting temptation.
Even if your college student has not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, they may experience bouts of social anxiety. This is understandable, especially if they are attending a college that is far from home.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. They have completely uprooted their lives to spend the better part of the next year in a foreign environment.
Oftentimes, students will turn to alcohol and drugs in order to calm their nerves. While having a few drinks on occasion is essentially harmless, anxious students are at a higher risk of developing alcohol abuse disorders than other age groups.
Signs of Substance Abuse or Addiction
College students are not the only ones who should be aware of the common signs of addiction. Parents of young adults and college attendees should also be mindful of signs that their loved ones are abusing alcohol or other dangerous substances.
Some common signs that your college student may be struggling with a substance abuse problem include:
Has your Dean’s List student suddenly begun to flunk a few classes? If so, it might be a big red flag. While even the best students may suffer a brief dip in grades when they start a new degree program, this trend should not impact all of their courses across the board.
Alcohol abuse can affect your child’s sleep patterns and disrupt their normal habits. This can leave them with little time to focus on their studies, which will cause their grades to decline.
However, declining grades can also be indicative of other issues. If you ask about the change in academic performance, make sure that you are open and responsive so that you can get to the root of the problem.
The next indicator of alcohol abuse is that your college student has suddenly started to skip classes. This goes hand in hand with a student’s academic performance. While in the midst of a struggle with substance abuse, many students experience a shift in priorities. They may be less motivated to go to class, instead choosing to get drunk or high.
Sleeping Throughout the Day
While you certainly expect your college student to pull an occasional all-nighter, they should not be chronically fatigued.
Learning that your loved one is fast asleep on a weekday afternoon is a strong indicator that something is amiss. The cause may very well be that they have fallen victim to substance or alcohol abuse on college campuses.
Unusual Financial Hardships
Full-time college students are notorious for being broke and finding thrifty ways to stretch their money. Still, you should be mindful of how much money that your daughter or son earns with their side hustle or part-time job. Keeping up with their expenditures is easier if you are their sole source of income.
If your student suddenly starts asking you for more money without explanation, then they may be blowing all their extra cash on alcohol or drugs. Don’t be overbearing but make it a point to inquire about their spending habits from time to time.
Over time, alcohol and substance abuse can alter your college student’s brain. These changes can negatively affect their mood. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause anxiety, anger, depression, and sudden mood swings. Certain drugs can also result in a high level of mental distress.
Neglect of Personal Hygiene
Not every college student spends hours planning out their wardrobe or grooming their hair to get that perfect look. It all comes down to knowing your college student’s habits and personality.
When you’re looking for signs of alcohol abuse, you should be aware of sudden changes to established habits. If your son or daughter drastically altered their typical hygiene routine, then alcohol abuse may be the cause.
Attending a few parties and consuming a bit of alcohol is widely considered to be a “right of passage” on virtually every college campus. You might be fine with your college student drinking alcohol occasionally once they are of age.
However, if your son or daughter has started to combine alcohol with prescription drugs, then they may be falling prey to addiction. When people develop a tolerance to certain substances, like alcohol, they may combine it with additional drugs to achieve the “high” that they desire.
If you or another family member has a history of substance abuse, then your teen is at a higher risk of developing an addiction.
Be upfront with your college student about this family history and encourage them to make wise decisions. Research the area that they are going to be living in and identify some sober adventures that they can partake in when they’re off at college. Pay close attention to their habits once they begin attending college, too.
Even if your college student has maintained their grades, they may still be struggling with addiction. Ongoing alcohol abuse on college campuses can turn a typically energetic person into a lethargic and unmotivated individual.
Difficulty Making Contact
Prolonged alcohol abuse on college campuses can cause your student to withdraw from family members and friends. If your son or daughter has become nearly impossible to get in contact with, they may be hiding a substance abuse disorder.
Alcohol Treatment Options
Once alcohol addiction has taken hold, overcoming it can seem like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are several proven alcohol treatment options that can help you or your college student break free from the control of alcohol abuse on college campuses.
The level of care required for alcohol treatment will depend largely on the severity of a person’s condition. The three primary alcohol treatment options include:
Medical detoxification is perhaps the most effective way to start an addiction treatment protocol. During this treatment, trained medical staff will oversee the detox process using proven, medication-assisted protocols.
When they are attempting to overcome alcohol addiction, withdrawal symptoms often cause people to fall back into bad habits. These symptoms can also cause intense cravings, which increase the risk of relapse.
Through a combination of compassionate care and medication, detox facilities can alleviate most withdrawal symptoms.
After a patient has completed medical stabilization and detox, they may elect to enter residential alcohol treatment. Patients that do not require detox can enter a residential program directly.
During the residential treatment process, a therapist will work with the patient. They will identify common triggers and underlying psychological issues that the person has been masking with alcohol abuse. Patients have the opportunity to work through these causes of addiction in a caring and peaceful environment.
Residential alcohol treatment can last from as little as one week to as long as 60 days, depending on the unique needs of the patient.
Also known as a partial hospitalization program (PHP), outpatient rehab is the next highest type of care available other than a residential alcohol program. This outpatient program lasts approximately four to six hours, at least five days per week.
PHP programs are a great option for patients that can safely manage their abuse disorder from home or a sober living community. PHP programs allow patients to smoothly transition into their normal routines after undergoing detoxification and withdrawal.
Outpatient rehab is often supplemented with a traditional 12-step support group meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous. This allows patients to stay deeply involved in the recovery community and helps them to stay grounded during the entire rehab process.
How to Seek Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you or your college student are struggling with substance or alcohol abuse, there is hope. The Indiana Center for Recovery offers comprehensive substance abuse treatment services to help you beat addiction.
To learn more or to speak with one of our caring team members, call us at 844-650-0064 or contact us online. Together, we can help you create a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Let’s get you or a loved one help with a few simple steps.