Almost every college kid comes into contact with substance and alcohol abuse. Sad fact of life. Not only are we exposed in real life, but we are exposed to the media’s hype that everybody does drugs and everybody binge drinks. It isn't the norm, trust me on this. But the message that everyone is using makes those who don't use feel like losers. In so many movies (like Grease for example), you have the innocent “Sandy” character who comes to a new school and befriends a group of kids who are more experienced than she. She quickly learns that alcohol and drugs are being used and has to decide whether or not to join in to be accepted. That's when a vulnerable student can start behaviors that spiral out of control faster than anyone could imagine.
What Happens When You Don't Want To Use
It’s the oldest story in the book. In some ways, I was Sandy. I have had many experiences with alcohol and some experience with marijuana use when I was in high school, but nothing more than that. Once I moved to college I was completely caught off guard when I noticed my friends beginning to experiment with Molly, acid, and cocaine. I always said no when cocaine was passed my way, but my friends would eagerly accept.
What to Do in Unknown Territory
Breathe and take a moment before responding. You may feel it's unsafe and scary for your friends, but remind yourself that the only thing you can control is yourself. When drugs are offered to you, simply say no thanks. If the offers persist and you feel your adrenaline pumping and your nervous system reacting, breathe some more and say you have a drug test coming up for work, or you have a test in the morning.
Get Out Quickly
Your next mission is to remove yourself from the situation. You do not need to start crying and making a scene, just stand up and say you're going out for a coffee, or a drink from the store. Ask if anyone wants something, and try and leave by yourself. If you’ve been drinking, call an Uber or Lyft to pick you up. Once removed from the situation you are free to think clearly in a more comfortable setting.
How to respond:
Rule number one when you’re in any scary situation do not get emotional. When I was caught off guard by my best friend doing coke I could have easily screamed, “What the hell are you doing?!” We all know how counterproductive that would have been. Much better to wait until the next day, or at least a few hours, for your hormone levels to even out before making a decision on what to do. Here are some of your options:
- Contact the school counselor- I have had great success with my school counselor. It isn’t about tattle-tailing on your friends, rather getting the help you need to cope with the situation and learn how to become a better resource for your loved ones struggling with drug use.
- Tell a trusted adult if you feel in danger- This is a very sensitive option that requires clear thinking. You must know the facts and have hard evidence when reporting to a person of authority. Keep in mind you think you are doing what is best for your fried, or their, safety but may have unintended consequences. And understand that relationships will most likely be effected.
- Limit the amount of time, if any, that you spend with people who are using. You cannot control or change their behavior, but you can choose to protect yourself and your future by staying away from peer negative peer pressure.
I am a senior in college who started partying when I was 16. I know the truth about what substance use does to you and your relationships. I also understand the very real danger of exposing yourself to addictive substances.
Biggest Take Away
Do what is best for you. Follow your gut instinct and remember that substance use is hurting your friend. Your friend is not intentionally hurting you when she, or he, uses. Try and separate the two so there is hope that when the day comes that drugs no longer have a hold on the person you love, you can salvage some type of relationship from the wreckage.
Topic for another day: What to do if someone around you has overdosed and you don't know what to do, and are afraid to get in trouble by telling. This is the time to call 911 right away.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: The Intern