Mentors Analyze Drinking, Drugs, and the College Transition
College is a time when many gain independence for the first time in their life. Parents are gone, and suddenly students are left with having total responsibility over their life. This period of time can lead to dangerous decisions and often this is the time where students experiment to gain a greater sense of self. Colleges and universities are beginning to address these issues by offering awareness programs and hotlines for students needing support, however the campus culture at university is too tempting for some students to pass up.
In a recent article, researchers took a close look at the challenges of drinking and drugs for the average 17 to 19 year old student. They were able to understand the social dynamics that are in place during the college transition. Their running gap year program works with students 15-18 years of age to help them better navigate the struggle with decisions around alcohol and drugs. There program leaders work on mentoring these students in making life decisions.
The gap year programs made three distinct dominant observations about the drug and alcohol culture. Here are what they discovered:
- The 3 identities of “Drinkers”:
When it comes to drinking culture on college campuses, there are the non-drinkers, the nurser, or the binge drinker. Non-drinkers do not drink at all, nursers occasionally have one or two drinks and the bingers seems to never stop drinking until they are seriously (often dangerously) drunk. The interesting thing they pointed out is the fact that these identities do not seem to change once they are established more so they become permanent parts of the person’s persona. The categories of drinkers also seem to sort themselves socially. For example, the nondrinkers tend not to socialize much. The nursers only occasionally attend social outings and parties and of course, the bingers are typically seen as the party animals and “cool kids.” In my experience, this was definitely pretty accurate especially when it came to the binge drinkers. Binge drinkers tended to hang out around others who liked to drink excessively. I was and have always been the nurser type and typically my friends and I did not excessively drink on the weekends. We had health goals and early mornings to look forward to.
- Drinking Antics:
Another persona they identified is how the different categories conversed. For example, the binger tended to be the story teller while the nurser’s reacted. The bingers would tell stories of extreme intoxication even life-threatening incidences in a manner or grabbing attention or being extreme. Binge drinking types tended to exchange stories with one another of extreme intoxication. Reading this, I am reminded of the years of hearing people who went on regularly telling stories about how crazy their weekend went. It makes sense that it would be difficult to overcome using these substances after they have become such an instilled part of the person’s sense of self.
- Prescription Drug Myths:
The mentors also took note of prescription drug myths. The assumption widely is spread that is a drug is prescribed, it must be safe. This assumption is exceedingly common about students in college culture. Prescription medications are all too commonly used to deal with stress or help with studying/ test taking. However, few recognize the potential harmful side effects such as the potential of the drug to have a reaction to other medications the student may be using or the potential for addiction. There is little awareness seen for the criminal ramifications of being caught exchanging prescription drugs. In addition, a large percentage of students are aware of someone who has an addiction.
How to Address Alcohol and Drug Culture
The article continues on the describe ways to educate students about drugs and alcohol so that they are able to make informed decisions independently. Students make choices rooted in self-respect, values, and appreciation of consequences. Ultimately, the student will have full control on what they do to themselves. Here is what the mentors recommended s ways to prevent drug abuse and alcohol use during their gap year program and the years following their gap year program:
Teaching the difference between use, abuse and addiction helps students learn about the consequences of their actions. When students in the gap program violate policies, they lose privileges and a second offense results in expulsion. Teaching students to understand consequences results in a better education process that is effective.
In addition to a plethora of other methods, the gap year program is able to help students overcome the risks and challenges of substance use. Their program demonstrates that students can learn to make healthy decisions in a campus-like environment. In addition, different cultures can be created that foster self-reflection and personal growth.
Gap Programs are an excellent option in the college transition process. Perhaps college campuses can use their program as a model in reducing the population of students who end up with substance dependency over their college years. If you struggle with addiction, remember you are not alone. If you’re wondering, what is drug rehab like and you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
Author: Shernide Delva