College students face a number of pressures, from paying for tuition to the stresses of academic success and failure. Among the many modern challenges that young academics face is addiction. Drinking on college campuses is common, risky and dangerous. There are also students using prescription drugs to get by as they experience depression or anxiety as well as those abusing stimulants, the so-called study drugs. Colleges are stepping up to help vulnerable students.
Consequences of Substance Abuse
A college student need not be an addict or fully dependent on drugs or alcohol to have problems. Substance abuse, which means misusing drugs or alcohol, causes serious consequences for young students. It directly leads to poor class attendance, reduced time spent studying and a reduced grade-point average. Several studies have found specific connections between substance abuse and academic performance. For instance, studies have shown that binge drinking twice or more in two weeks leads to lower grades and that heavy drinking reduces the chances of getting an A in any class.
Supporting Recovery on Campus
In spite of the obvious need to help some students resist the urge to drink heavily or avoid drug use, many college campuses have been slow to provide support. Others are making up for lost time, including Missouri State University. The college has developed a new program, called SoBear: Bears in Recovery, which helps students struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. What really makes the program unique is that it is led and run by students. As the program develops and grows, students have the chance to have a say in what it will look like. Currently, the group offers 12-step support meetings, volunteer opportunities and alternative social activities in sober settings. At Rutgers University, the college supports students in recovery by providing sober dorms. Rutgers was one of the first American universities to provide services for addicted students and now the dorms help create a community in which these young people find support, safety and a sober environment. Resisting the urge to use when living among partying, drinking students is difficult if not impossible. Having a sober dorm is essential for the success of students in recovery. Such sober-living options are now fairly common on college campuses, but actual recovery programs are still needed. At Augsburg College in Minneapolis, part of the recovery living experience includes random drug tests. This helps motivate students to stay clean. Even more important are the activities the students engage in. They get together for fun events, as well as studying, in order to resist relapse urges. The students in recovery at Augsburg also have access to professional counseling. The University of Michigan is another campus that supports students in recovery. Their Collegiate Recovery Program, or CRP, does not include actual clinical treatment, but it does provide services to support recovery. These include case management with regular check-ins, sober activities, group support with other students, 12-step meetings and volunteer opportunities. Addiction and substance abuse on college campuses are growing problems affecting young students. To help them find success in life and in academics, it is the responsibility of a college or university to provide support. Whether that support means a sober living community, on-campus counseling, access to support groups, alternative activities or all of the above, reaching out to help these students is the most important step.