Substance Use In College

24 February 2016 Written by 

Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by College Intern Carlyle Reinmer  Do Colleges Owe Their Students Substance Use/Behavior Education

High School Casual Use Changes In College

As Laila packs her bags for college, she’s anxious of the new world that awaits her. She experiences conflicting feelings of nervous tension about being away from her family for the first time and terrible excitement about the experiences that await her. Laila smokes a joint to quiet her anxiety. As her parents depart the feelings of anxiety begin to subside. She throws back a few beers with her roommates. Laila quickly embraces her peers, her environment, and her freedom. Laila, like many of her peers, is inexperienced with this amount of freedom. 

Freedoms Encourage College Increase of Use

With freedom comes experimentation. Experimentation means: skipping class, staying up all night around a campfire debating Marx, Nietzsche, and Du Bois, having sex, doing drugs, falling in love, and whatever combination of these activities that feels right at the time. These activities and infinitely many more make for the [non-academic] quintessential collegiate experience. Throughout high school, Laila had a monogamous girlfriend; she drank and smoked socially, at parties and with friends. Laila is not naive, she acknowledges that her consumption of alcohol and marijuana will probably increase, but not substantially.

Along with the freedoms, experimentation, and increased sexual activity and substance use, Laila faces dangers that she may not have faced under her parents’ supervision - failing classes, unplanned pregnancies, sexually and intravenously transmitted diseases, addiction, and overdose.

What Should An Expensive College Education Include

Laila’s university is charged not only with providing her a top-notch education, but also with reducing the risk of some of these activities. Administrators must balance safety concerns with demand for freedom of expression and experimentation. This dichotomy has been never in equilibrium as two ideas are in constant competition: student demand for a safe, decriminalized environment and administrative concern that harm and risk reduction is equivalent to endorsement.

High Schools Have Tried to Deal With The Issue Colleges Have Not

College and University administrators are oft less interested in the attendance and sexual habits of their students than their high school counterparts. But the College’s drug policies and precautionary measures have something to learn from the ways that High Schools across the nation have attempted to curb teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. That is to say, abstinence only education has never worked, continues to not work, and will never work.

Colleges Need To Address Substance Use and Abuse With Education

In the same way, colleges' simply demanding that students experimenting with freedom commit to a “Say no to drugs” pledge, is not going to work. Just as enlightened high schools that provide scientifically accurate information about sexual health have lower rates of unplanned pregnancy and STD’s, Laila would be much safer if her college administrators provided her and her fellow students with scientifically accurate information about risks of substance use overdose and alcohol poisoning.

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