Fall is a time of change. We come back from vacation, relaxing and spending time with family. Fall appears to be a more active time and often signals new activities and opportunities. This is especially true for young adults who are leaving home and attending school. In many cases this is a most exciting time and an opportunity to live away from home for the first time.
This transition can be an opportunity to test out those independence skills in a variety of situations.
- Managing time and developing good college study habits.
- Balancing studies with social opportunities.
- Taking time for relaxation and self care.
- Meeting new people and establishing a new friend group.
- New freedom, rewards and consequences that might include experimentation with alcohol and substances.
- Learning and understanding the risks associated with increased use. Many young adults have already been introduced to alcohol and other substances, however being away from home without parental restraints, allows for more experimentation without some of the structure and boundaries that may have been imposed when living at home.
For those who have already had some prior issues or problems drinking and using, the freedom and opportunity to drink and get high is readily available. From the moment an individual arrives on campus, there are a number of opportunities to meet new friends, familiarize oneself with the campus and campus life. So after orientation the excitement of being alone and meeting new people can also include tapping a keg, going to Fraternity, Sorority or dormitory parties and events.
Do families share some of the responsibility? Here are some of the facts. In households where parents abuse alcohol or drugs the children may be at risk of abusing substances themselves since they view the substance use as a normal activity in the household. As children become adults they are more likely to continue this pattern of behavior, which can lead to more serious problems, especially when they might think that they need to turn to a substance to deal with emotional or social issues.
College students will find a number of reason to drink or use drugs. There are holidays, sporting activities, socializing on weekdays and weekends, the stressors of living independently, going to classes, keeping up with assignments and celebrating successes.
What begins as a recreational outlet can become a destructive coping mechanism to cope with anxiety, depression and life on life’s terms.
No one plans on having an addiction problem. Most young adults will agree that “too much of a good thing can become a problem” when asked but believe that this problem occurs to others and not themselves.
People who have this problem may:
- Drink or use more than planned.
- Experience blackouts or have difficulty remembering.
- Have difficulty keeping commitments.
- Demonstrate poor performance in coursework.
- Spending more time to obtain and use a substance.
- Spend time on activities that are illegal and risking consequences.
- May experience possible medical problems associated with drinking and/or using.
- Feelings of depression, anxiety, or overwhelming stress.
Having an alcohol and/or substance use disorder is not a moral deficiency or weakness. The priority is to address problems promptly. Individuals who struggle with these issues are usually plagued by guilt, shame, sadness, anger or anxiety. Isolation and denial can become entrenched negative belief systems as this predicament progresses.
It is a problem that is treatable, with professional or other related resources. Here is a partial list of resources:
- College or University counseling centers.
- Local alcohol and substance abuse county agencies.
- Therapists who specialize in alcohol and substance abuse treatment.
- Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
- State Resources for alcohol and substance abuse.
Contact me to discuss alcohol and substance abuse issues.