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College Student’s Guide to Avoiding Drug and Alcohol Abuse

College Student’s Guide to Avoiding Drug and Alcohol Abuse

  • College Guide

When first starting school, there are a lot of rewarding and exciting things college students encounter: roommates, new surroundings, tough classes, making friends. But students should also be aware of drug and alcohol culture on campus. Use of alcohol and drugs, including prescription drugs, is not as taboo as it used to be, and the casual attitude toward substance use can make drugs and alcohol seem less risky. Use this guide to prepare for experiences involving drugs or alcohol in college, recognize substance abuse and seek help and learn about the myths and realities of campus drinking and drug culture to navigate through college in a fun and healthy way.

A Reality Check About Drugs and Alcohol on Campus

Many students get their first real experiences with substance use and abuse when they begin college. The freedom and ease of experimentation during college can be both exciting and scary, and there are plenty of myths and stereotypes surrounding substance use to make sense of. Getting familiar with some common warnings and situations–and the realities behind them–can help students make smarter choices about substance use.

REALITY

You might feel pressured, but you don’t have to say yes. There are plenty of students who participate in social activities and go to parties without drinking or taking drugs. If you feel like you need to partake to have fun, this particular party or group of friends may not be a good fit for you.

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Offer to be the designated driver. However, it’s not always that easy to dodge social pressure. Take a look at some other tips for saying “No” that are realistic for students.

REALITY

You might feel prepared beforehand, but in the moment it can be a different story. You might wonder if you’re overreacting in what seems like an unsafe situation, like seeing an unconscious stranger, and the influence of alcohol or drugs can keep you from acting or speaking up. Don’t let your setting, state of mind or friends deter you from taking action.

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It’s easy to freeze up when a situation you prepared for actually takes place. If you see something that seems potentially dangerous and you aren’t sure what to do, don’t wait. Find someone sober and tell them what’s going on. You’ll have strength in numbers and they can help you act.

REALITY

This could happen, but it doesn’t have to. Suspecting you may have had sex that you or your partner would not have consented to while sober is not a good feeling, and could lead to serious consequences like legal charges and health issues, both mental and physical.

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Someone can’t legally consent if they’re drunk or high, but consent isn’t just “no means no” or “yes means yes”. Get to know what consent really means, and know you can ALWAYS change your mind. If the person you are with is too intoxicated to be in complete, enthusiastic control, stop.

REALITY

Alcohol and many drugs are depressants and can effectively “loosen people up.” However, despite the friendliness you might adopt while under the influence, depressants actually slow down the central nervous system, meaning the more you consume the worse you will physically feel and possibly act.

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If you have social anxiety that keeps you from participating without being under the influence, you’re not alone. Make your room a safe and comfortable space, and start by going to the campus library—a place you can be around a lot of people where you don’t have to be social. Learning from the personal experiences of others with social anxiety can help give you some other ideas for overcoming anxiety that don’t involve unhealthy substance use.

REALITY

Especially for students trying to stick with a group or a friend, leaving an unsafe situation when someone else wants to stay can be tricky. However, it’s important to trust your judgement.

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Don’t be afraid to be an active bystander. Be honest, take your friend aside and talk to them alone. It can be easier to express uneasiness to someone you know when there aren’t other people around. Or make up an excuse — the Ask for Angela campaign was created as a way to discreetly get help if you feel unsafe. If drugs or alcohol are making it difficult to convince a friend to leave, try these tips for looking out for your friends.

REALITY

Both bingeing and self-medicating can seem totally fine for a while, but developing habits around substance use can quickly turn into substance abuse, because you’re allowing a substance to become a regular, relied-upon element in your life. Tolerance build-up is another risk, which causes people to use more and more of a given substance to achieve the same result.

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Monitor your intake and how your substance use affects your mood and academic performance, or ask a friend you trust to be honest with you about your usage. The line between safe consumption and substance abuse is not always easy one to see. The tools later in this guide can help students track their substance use habits and make positive lifestyle changes.