Drugs, alcohol plague students in college
Published: Friday, March 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 07:03
The growing trend of prescription drug misuse for recreational purposes, along with alcohol consumption and the use of other drugs, has become a problem for college students over the years.
Michelle LaFleur, grant support specialist for alcohol and drug education, said one of the more serious problems on the rise at Mississippi State University is the practice of mixing energy drinks with alcohol, as well as mixing alcohol with prescription drugs. Drinking too much alcohol in general is dangerous enough without adding other drugs.
"Students need to realize they don't have to drink to be accepted," she said.
LaFleur said binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men. One drink is defined as a 12 ounce beer, five ounces of wine or one ounce of hard liquor. Red Solo cups are dangerous because they can hold 16 ounces and the type of alcohol inside those cups varies. Several programs are available through health and wellness that offer help for students.
"The GAIN program, which stands for Goal-Driven Alcohol and Drug Intervention Network, is a completely confidential program where students come in and take a 30-minute survey, get their results and get help," LaFleur said.
Joyce Yates, health education and wellness director, said marijuana is still the most prevalent drug of choice among college students, but the use of prescription drugs, especially Adderall, is on the rise.
"To me, I think we're going to see a growing trend (of prescription drug addiction)," she said. "People don't realize how dangerous they are."
While alcohol remains the most abused, Yates said prescription drugs are increasingly popular due to their availability. Students can easily buy them online without a prescription.
"One in 20 people in the U.S. age 12 or older have used prescription painkillers non-medically," Yates said, citing a 2010 Center for Disease Control survey.
She said studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show full-time college students are twice as likely to use a stimulant for non-medical reasons, compared to those who are not in college or are part-time. Students sometimes believe prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but the abuse of these medications can lead to seizures, heart attack, stroke or death.
Melinda Pilkinton, social work assistant professor, said the misuse of stimulants is one of the biggest misconceptions among college students.
"To take a prescription stimulant without a prescription is playing with fire," she said. "It seems to have a doctor's stamp of approval if it's in a prescription bottle."
Pilkinton said some research suggests there is a higher use of stimulants in the Greek population.However, prescription drugs have become more easily available to everybody, with research showing the usage in all age groups has increased in the past 10 years.
"This stuff can sneak up on you. The saddest thing to me is when a student continues to make bad decisions," she said. "Nobody wakes up and says ‘I want to be an alcoholic or addict.'"
Pilkinton said men tend to abuse almost all types of drugs more than women, although between 40 and 75 percent of women abusing drugs have trauma, such as sexual assault or abuse, in their history.
Yates and Pilkinton both said the misuse of drugs and alcohol is quite often a result of psychological or emotional issues. Grades or relationship problems often make students turn to alcohol.
"Mental health is almost always a byproduct of drugs and alcohol," Yates said. "People don't intend to become addicted. We want to make students resilient and provide them with programs and services that promote and encourage healthy lifestyles."
Yates said the three most preventable causes of death in the U.S. all stem from tobacco, obesity and heavy drinking. Although student counseling services and the department of health and wellness offer several programs, some situations may require further treatment outside MSU's realm.
"Our mission is never judgmental," she said. "We're here to help serve students and help them achieve goals and be successful."
Pilkinton, who spent 12 years as the director of substance abuse inpatient programs, said types of treatments vary depending on what and how the person used the substance.
"It's important to realize, if you do feel like you're out of control, you should start getting a grip on it," she said.
Pilkinton said the various programs for rehabilitation include inpatient treatment, detox programs or partial hospitalization, among others. Students have the option of going to Student Counseling Services for a referral.