We are almost at the end of the second semester of the year. Yeah! This also means that students have returned from spring break and we’re even past St. Patrick’s Day. Next we look forward to other spring and summer celebrations. In thinking about these events, one thing comes to mind: substance use.
Substance use, in the form of alcohol, illicit substance, and prescription medication, has been on the rise for years. Alcohol has increased in availability to high school adolescent and the college population. Since the inception of video games, adolescence and the college population have been enthralled with playing, sometime to the detriment of their academics. However, of concern is the isolation and subsequent alcohol use while gaming. Electronics have reduced students’ social skill development. Those students who are more socially active may be frequenting various parties.
The availability of marijuana has increased from 56 percent in 1998 to 88 percent for 10th graders in 1999. Other illicit substances are just as easy to obtain. Reports suggest that accessibility is up for cocaine 30 percent, crack 29 percent, and heroin 21 percent (SMA, 1999). Imagine what that means for accessibility to the college population. In 2009, Adderall was abused by 90 percent of the college population; to further complicate the abuse of Adderall, approximately half of these students were also classified as binge drinkers. This is a dangerous combination. Additionally, research has shown that students who abuse Adderall were three times more likely to have abused marijuana, eight times more likely to abuse cocaine or prescription tranquilizers, and five times more likely to abuse prescription pain medication (SAMHSA, 2009).
So as a parent, what should be looking for? Warning signs of substance abuse may look like fatigue and may be overlooked, particularly as the student’s course load increases from this time of year to the end. In addition, sudden changes in personality, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, sudden decline in academic performance, and reluctance to spend time with or talk about their friends. Further, poor hygiene, aggression, irritability, giddiness, and nervousness are warning signs. Difficulties with concentration or increased sensitivity to inquiry are behaviors worth investigating. Prescription medication can produce severe medical issues, including: increased blood pressure, organ damage, shortness of breath, seizures, heart attack, and stroke. If any of these behaviors present, seek medical and mental health services. An evaluation can be conducted to determine the exact level of care necessary to address the student’s needs.
Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA),(2009). Nonmedical use of Adderall among Full-Time College Students, The National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SMA), (1999). Summary of Findings from the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 99-3328, Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies.