College Students, Drugs, & Alcohol: A Discussion on Substance Abuse
By: Esmeralda Aguilera and Jorgann Holgersen, Peer Educators
October 15th, 2020
As students enter college, we try our hardest to prepare for the most common kinds of stressors, like classes, making friends, all-nighters, and more. To combat the stress we feel, it's natural to look for coping mechanisms to help us through the most challenging times.
What does coping look like for you?
For some students, coping can look like self-care days or binge-watching a favorite show to get your mind off homework. For others, coping mechanisms can turn into dependency on alcohol or drugs.
Whether you or a friend can relate to addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms, we are thankful you came across RISE and our blog. College can be very stressful, and we understand the need for healthy coping mechanisms and distractions.
On a more serious note for this Thursday's blog, we'll talk about signs of alcohol and drug use, provide some resources, and look at healthy alternatives to more high-risk or dangerous coping mechanisms-- but let's start off by discussing dependency.
What Is Substance Dependency?
Substance dependence happens when three different processes occur: Tolerance, Physical Dependence, and Psychological Dependence.
Tolerance is when a drug feels like it has less of an effect and an increased dosage is needed to get the same result. (FYI: The drug continues to have the same physiological effect, regardless of tolerance.)
Physical Dependence is defined as the occurrence of withdrawal syndrome; if the drug use is stopped, suddenly mild to severe withdrawal symptoms will occur. This happens because the body has adapted to the presence of the drug.
Psychological Dependence is characterized by a craving for the drug, high frequency use, and a tendency to relapse after stopping use.
Now that we have our vocabulary established, let's discuss signs and behaviors of those who might be abusing alcohol or drugs.
Signs and Behaviors of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
When checking in with yourself or someone else, it can be useful to recognize the signs and behaviors of substance abuse. These behaviors can range from even the most minor changes in a person's behavior to some pretty substantial differences.
The Mayo Clinic (1) gives an exhaustive list of symptoms such as school or work problems, physical health issues, neglected appearance, and changes in behavior- just to name a few. They even break it down to specific symptoms associated with drugs that are commonly abused if you want to check it out on their site.
How one handles substance abuse may vary from person to person, but there are some common significant signs to look out for:
- There may be some changes in one's interests, such as a decreased motivation to go to work or school, or a decrease in performance, especially in areas that an individual was once passionate about.
- There may also be changes in how a person behaves in their relationships, such as not enjoying conversation, not wanting to go to events anymore, lack of patience and empathy, or even being willing to break ties to people who attempt to intervene.
- Another area that changes are expected in is a person's physique or appearance. The individual may begin to disregard keeping up with their regular hygiene. Even their body may change, such as excessive weight gain or loss, the individual may be tired more often or have drastic appetite changes.
All of the above are indicators of substance use that could seriously worry loved ones (or maybe even yourself) if you identify with any of these. However, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Whether you are trying to support a loved one or you feel a little lost yourself, people are there to support you, even right here on campus.
Now that you know what signs to look for, let's look at options available on and off campus for students who may struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. Above all, it is imperative to understand that even people who may take part in risky behaviors are worthy of love and support.
Where to Get Help
You have a great support system not only here at RISE, but at Texas Tech and even the city of Lubbock.
- Raider Restart (2) - Raider Restart is a Texas Tech program by the Rise office free to all self-referred students. It is a one-on-one non-judgmental conversation with a facilitator. It aims to provide students with the resources to make healthy and safe decisions regarding substance abuse and how it affects their overall wellness.
- TTU Counseling Center (3) - Texas Tech counseling is paid for in every student's tuition. They are a safe community of mental health care for Texas Tech students. They offer group, individual, and couples counseling.
- Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities (4) - The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, supports Texas Tech students based on a sense of community using a 12-step model. They promote a clean, sober, and healthy life.
- Student of Concern Report (5) - This report can be made anonymously if you feel like a friend is showing signs of distress. We know it can sometimes be hard to decide when to get help for a friend or help a student in distress; The SoC report is a significant first step in getting them and yourself help.
- NA meetings in Lubbock (6) - Narcotic and Alcohol Anonymous meetings encourage a sense of community by providing a safe and anonymous environment to heal.
- Stages of Recovery Lubbock Texas (7) - Stages of Recovery's mission statement promotes a sturdy foundation of recovery from alcohol, drugs, and other related behaviors. They do this by providing an environment that fosters safety, accountability, community, and trust at an affordable price. An addiction specialist will tailor their program directly to you.
Activities for Your Mental Health While Battling Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Many activities can feed your brain and heart without any negative consequences. The American Addiction Center offers these and various more alternatives to coping during recovery.
- Meditation: Meditation uses breathing exercises and meditative techniques to help people feel more in tune with their bodies. It can help you learn how our mind, body, and spirit align and bring out a sense of self-reflection. Check out our blog on Meditation (8) for a step by step guide on meditation! Some calm meditation apps to check out include "The Mindfulness App," "Headspace," and "Calm."
- Exercise: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (9) offers training to boost physical and emotional health. It releases endorphins and stabilizes moods, which can help control cravings and prevent relapse.
- Creative Expression: Creative expression can be a healthy outlet for internalized anger or stress. This can include painting, dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or writing/journaling.
- Join an Organization: Feeling part of a community that shares your common ideals can create a fun distraction to fill your day with. TTU has over 550 organizations found on TechConnect (10), and they're all fantastic (but especially the RISE Peer Educators)!
- Come talk to RISE: As peer educators, we all have office hours and love talking to other students. As college students, we can relate to and understand college life's struggle. We'll be starting virtual peer educator office hours toward the end of October, so keep an eye on our social medias @tturise for announcements on how to connect with us!
- Positive Reframing: Sometimes, it can be easy to think of life in a negative manner, but by resisting the urge to see things negatively and visiting things in a positive light perspective can help for the better. Adopting these practices isn't always easy, but it may bring a positive change to your life and relieve college life's inevitable stresses.
We understand that this blog was a bit more serious and somber compared to our other blogs, but we want to ensure everything we put forth as peer educators is relevant and helpful to YOU!
Of course, you can always contact the fabulous resources that we talked about earlier to learn more about how their programs can assist you. However, if you are curious about something we have yet to discuss and want to know more, get in contact with us at RISE directly and we can get you connected with the right people.
Links to Resources:
1. "Drug addiction (substance use disorder)", The Mayo Clinic
2. RISE Raider Restart
3. TTU Student Counseling Center
4. The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Texas Tech University
5. TTU Student of Concern Report
6. NA Meeting in Lubbock – Website
7. Stages of Recovery Lubbock Texas – Website
8. RISE Meditation Blog
9. "Physical Activity Reduces Stress", The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
10. TTU TechConnect