Addiction on campus: A series on mental health
In recent years, the substance most often abused at GC and other colleges is alcohol, followed closely by marijuana and prescription drugs.
Shadisha Bennett Brodde, a licensed professional counselor at GC, said binge drinking appears to be one of the most prominent damaging habits acquired by college students.
“College students, more than their peers who are not in college, are more likely to drink in a binge drinking pattern,” Bennett Brodde said. “Binge drinking is four standard drinks for women and five standard drinks for men in a two hour period.”
A standard drink is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as any drink containing roughly 14 or more grams of pure alcohol. So, 12 ounces of regular beer or ve ounces of wine hold equivalency to one standard drink.
At GC, if a student suspects they or a friend is displaying signs of alcohol abuse, the Office of Health Promotions provides “Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students,” a computer program that provides insight on whether or not a student has a problematic relationship with alcohol.
Students can come voluntarily, be referred by someone on-campus or complete this program as part of a sanction from the Judicial Board.
“Students may also make an appointment with a therapist at the counseling center to discuss any issues they may be experiencing with their substance abuse,” Bennett Brodde said. “Off-campus, there is an Alcoholics Anonymous group, but I would love to see an AA group on-campus."
Though marijuana appears to be the second most-used drug on campus, students aren’t as inclined to seek help or counseling for this habit.
Prescription drug use, not for medicinal purposes, is also on the rise.
“The most commonly used is stimulant medication like Adderall or Vyvanse,” Bennett Brodde said. “Up to 60 percent of students with legitimate prescriptions will give their medication to students who don’t have prescriptions.”
Because these drugs are more widely accepted, students may not recognize signs and symptoms that appear when abuse or addiction is present.
“It’s important to recognize signs of abuse before you intervene,” said Ita Doré, a licensed professional counselor in Woodstock. “Symptoms include a loss of interest in school or social life, distancing oneself from friends, unexplained behavioral or personality changes and frequent mood swings.”
Remaining a supportive, present friend to someone with a substance abuse problem is crucial to their recovery, and there are effective ways to approach the matter.
“Believe it or not, students are more likely to listen to their peers when it comes to risky behaviors,” Bennett Brodde said. “Let them know how much you love and care about them. There is also a stigma that people with a substance abuse disorder are somehow morally bankrupt, so making a friend feel like a bad person typically doesn’t produce a useful effect. Be honest with them about your concerns without judging or preaching and stick to pointing out the consequences.”
A junior accounting major at GC* wrestled with nicotine addiction for a period of time and realized professional help was crucial to combat his excessive usage.
“When I came into college, I became friends with a group of people who introduced me to cigarettes,” he said. “At rst, I only smoked one or two per day. About a month or so later, I was up to one pack per day.”
He noticed his habit had developed into an ob- vious case of substance abuse the first time he wiped out two packs in one day. “I knew I had a problem when I felt like I was going crazy after not consuming nicotine for an hour or so,” he said. “By that time, I had friends reaching out to try and help me. Thankfully, I listened.”
After a failed attempt at quitting cold turkey, he decided to try out the NicoDerm patch, an alternative method of consuming nicotine through the skin that reduces withdrawals and cigarette cravings. “The patch was an absolute lifesaver for me,” he said. “I’m so grateful that I had friends who cared enough to check in on me and support me through my recovery. I don’t know where I would be today without the push they gave me to find help.”
*The student preferred their name be omitted.