Challenging the Pressures of Substance Use in College

Young adulthood can be an incredibly exciting time. As adolescents near the end of their teenage years, they will find themselves in their final days of high school, looking forward to a new life of freedom. During this time, many adolescents will consider attending college, which can be an exhilarating prospect. However, this period of life can also be filled with complex challenges and new pressures. One particularly common challenge to consider is the pressures of substance use in college. 

Whether you are entering college this fall for the first time, or are quickly approaching the legal drinking age as an upperclassman, it is necessary to shed light on the problematic drinking cultures that are often present on college campuses. Substance use in college, or at any time, comes with many risks. Therefore, you should do your part to challenge the pressures of alcohol and drug use as a young adult. Despite the pressures you may feel to engage in substance use, alcohol and other drugs do not have to be a part of your college experience.

Understanding the Pressures of Substance Use in College

Before entering college, become familiar with college norms of alcohol and drug use. If you have older siblings, you may already recognize the high prevalence of drinking culture in college. You may have some level of knowledge about college culture in general.

The bottom line is that alcohol and substance use in college is especially prevalent. Yes, the level can vary depending on the type or location of the college you attend. However, alcohol use in college is a well-known norm across the country. One of the main reasons for this is that most students reach the legal drinking age in college. Additionally, alcohol use is often a staple at parties, celebrations, and other college events. 

The intense drinking and drug-using culture in college is also influenced by the fact that college presents initial opportunities for freedom and independence from your parents. This newfound freedom may motivate you to experiment with high-risk behaviors, such as substance use. 

Everyone enters college with different beliefs and morals about alcohol and drug use. College presents many new opportunities for you and other young adults. As a result, it can be easy to get caught up in the pressures of substance use at social gatherings or to ease general curiosity.

The Dangers of Drinking and Drug-Using Cultures in College

It is not uncommon for people to dismiss the dangers of drinking and substance use in college. Some may even deny that their substance use is problematic. Others have endless excuses for their behavior. The truth is that any kind of substance use comes with health risks and consequences. In other words, sobriety is the healthiest and safest choice. 

The National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) highlights several consequences of college drinking. Some of these consequences include:

  • Death: Quoted from the NIAAA, “The most recent statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimate that about 1,519 college students ages 18 to 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.”
  • Assault: The NIAAA estimates that nearly 700,000 adults aged 18 to 24 are assaulted by another individual who is under the influence of alcohol. 
  • Sexual assault: The National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that in about half of the sexual assaults that occur in college, either the perpetrator, victim, or both are under the influence of alcohol. 
  • Academic problems: The NIAAA states, “About 1 in 4 college students report experiencing academic difficulties from drinking, such as missing class or getting behind in schoolwork.”
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD): According to the NIAAA, AUD “is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

Harm Reduction Tactics for College Students

While sobriety is the safest method for preventing the dangers of substance use, it is not always realistic. After all, like many others, you may feel inclined to experiment with alcohol as you celebrate your 21st birthday. In any case, you can employ harm-reduction strategies in college to avoid worsening consequences down the road. 

According to NIDA, “Harm reduction approaches help reduce certain health and safety issues associated with drug use.” Some helpful harm-reduction tips to consider include:

Bring Awareness to Your Alcohol Use

Monitor how much you are drinking, how often, and for what reason. Noticing the frequency and intensity of your alcohol use can help you better recognize if and when your alcohol use becomes problematic. 

Replace Alcohol Use With Healthier Behaviors

Is there another, healthier outlet that could replace your alcohol use? Determine your intentions. If you are drinking for pleasure, consider replacing drinking with mindfulness practices or fun sober hobbies.

Surround Yourself With Sober People

Consider spending your time with people that do not engage in alcohol and drug use. This will reduce your risk of substance-use consequences. It will also allow you to lean on these people as support systems during times of stress. 

Treating Problematic Substance Use In College

If you find yourself caught up in the pressures of substance use, know that treatment is available. 12 South Recovery offers a number of outpatient treatment options that can help you heal from the lasting effects of substance use. We offer a specialized adolescent program if you are under 18 years old. 

Older adolescents and young adults experience unique risks of substance use, particularly those in college. It is important to understand that no amount of alcohol or drug use is considered safe, and there can be consequences from even the most moderate forms of substance use. 12 South Recovery offers a wide range of mental health and substance use treatments with specialized programs for adolescents. Outpatient programs allow you to remain in school or work as you participate in the structured treatment you need to recover. For more information about the treatment programs we offer, or to get connected with support, call us today at (888) 830-8374. You can heal from the lasting effects of substance use. 

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