7 Essential Pieces of Advice for College Students Struggling with Addiction
Rates of heavy alcohol use among U.S. college students are almost 30% higher than those among non-college students. Illicit use of amphetamines like Adderall is nearly 46% higher among college students than their non-college counterparts. College students tend to use drugs and alcohol for reasons such as fitting in with peers, coping with stress, and boosting their academic performance. But what many don’t know is that abusing drugs and alcohol during college years can lead to serious lifelong problems with addiction.
When you’re in college, it can be easy to develop unhealthy habits like substance abuse since you’re no longer under close parental supervision, and face daily pressures from friends, teachers, and family. But to avoid struggling with addiction for life, you must seek help to overcome addiction while you’re still in college, and understand you’re not alone in your fight.
Are you a college student who thinks you might have a problem with addiction? Here are common signs of addiction, along with seven pieces of advice that can motivate you to get the help you need to become healthier, more confident, and addiction-free.
Are You Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?
Signs and symptoms of addiction can be physical, psychological, and behavioral in nature. Addiction can change both you and your lifestyle in countless ways, and not necessarily for the better. But knowing common signs that indicate you may be struggling with addiction can bring you that much closer to getting the help you need.
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Physical signs of drug or alcohol addiction:
- Constricted or dilated pupils
- Abrupt weight loss or weight gain
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Glazed or bloodshot eyes
- Excessive sweating
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Poor personal hygiene
- Skin sores and infections
- Becoming sick more frequently
- Drug or alcohol cravings
- Tolerance and physical dependence
- Withdrawal symptoms
Psychological signs of drug or alcohol addiction:
- Unexplained changes in personality
- Mood swings and irritability
- Lack of motivation
- Memory impairment
- Suicidal thoughts
Behavioral signs of addiction:
- Lying and secretive behavior
- Decline in performance at work or school
- Engaging in high-risk activities, like driving while intoxicated
- Getting into fights and altercations with others
- Spending lots of time obtaining and using drugs and alcohol
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies and activities
- Financial problems
- Engaging in illegal activities
- Spending time with new friends
- Hanging out at new places
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Using drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences
If you recognize any of the above common signs of addiction in you or a loved one, it might be time to learn more about your treatment options. Many drug detox centers can help you overcome all the physical, psychological, and behavioral signs of addiction using a combination of detox, therapy, and continuing care.
Advice for College Students Struggling with Addiction
There’s no discrimination when it comes to addiction — addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, and socioeconomic factors like income, career, and education. But college students may be at higher risk for addiction than non-college students due to the pressures and demands of school.
Here’s advice that can help you improve your health and livelihood if you’re a college student struggling with addiction.
1. Realize You’re Not Alone
Statistics show that drug use is highest among young adults in their late teens and 20s.
In 2013, over 22% of U.S. young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 reported using an illicit drug during the last 30 days. In 2014, nearly 29% of people in the same age group reported binge drinking regularly. That same year, an estimated 1.3 million U.S. teens between the ages of 12 and 17 were diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
Rates of substance abuse among the general young adult population and college students are similar, though rates among college students are slightly higher. Reports show that one in every five U.S. full-time college students regularly use illicit drugs, while over one-third of college students engage in binge drinking every month.
Next time you take a walk around your college campus, understand that you’re not alone, and that you’re surrounded by peers who may be sharing similar struggles. Know that roughly one in every five of your classmates may be using drugs, and that one in every three classmates binge drink regularly. Break your silence to prevent addiction from taking over your future, and to become a role model for others who may also need help to overcome addiction.
2. Ask for Help
Drug addiction recovery can be difficult to get through alone without the love and support of caring friends and family. Think about people in your life whom you trust enough to help you get sober without passing judgment, or being negative about your struggles with addiction. Research shows that involving family in your recovery can actually motivate you to stick with treatment, and may improve your success rate with long-term sobriety.
Your loved ones can distract you from thinking about cravings and withdrawal, and create a safe, comfortable recovery environment without drugs and alcohol. Friends and family can be there to listen when you feel like talking about your addiction, and about the emotions and feelings you experience after you quit. Friends and family can also help you choose the best addiction treatment center, so you’re not overwhelmed at the time you decide to put one foot in front of the other, and seek treatment.
3. Find Treatment that Works for You
Addiction treatment centers offer a range of therapies that can be customized just for you based on your history with addiction, overall health status, and personal health practices. You can detox from drugs and alcohol using medications that relieve withdrawal symptoms, or go the holistic route that uses alternative therapies like acupuncture, exercise therapy, and daily massage to help you recover. The best treatment centers help you overcome addiction as a whole by treating the root cause.
Choose a treatment center that offers detox services so you can overcome physical dependence on drugs and alcohol. A medical detox, medically assisted detox, and medication-assisted treatment are among the safest, most effective ways to detox since they allow you to withdraw from substances under close medical supervision. Nurses and doctors can intervene at any time to relieve your symptoms, make your recovery more comfortable, and reduce the risk for complications like seizures and violent behavior.
Therapy is another important component of addiction treatment, and helps you identify triggers that caused you to start abusing drugs and alcohol in the first place. Look for treatment centers that offer individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 12-step support group therapy so you can learn the skills you need to handle stress and navigate daily college life without turning to drugs and alcohol.
Detox and therapy are available in a residential / inpatient setting, and in an outpatient setting. Benefits of receiving inpatient treatment include being able to recover away from negative influences, and establishing a new structured daily routine without drugs and alcohol. Benefits to receiving outpatient treatment include being able to live at home or at college, and continuing to go to school while taking detox medications and attending weekly therapy sessions.
If you’re not sure which treatment program is most ideal for you, talk to an experienced addiction counselor who can answer all your questions and point you in the right direction.
4. Ditch Your Drug-Using “Friends”
If you’ve started to spend time with new friends at college who use drugs and alcohol, attend lots of parties, and pressure you to ditch your studies, these people aren’t really your friends because they don’t have your best interests at heart. Separate yourself from these individuals, and find ways to make new friends who are more motivated about succeeding in school while staying sober in the process. Spending time with people who use drugs and alcohol to escape stress or to become more sociable can influence you to develop your own unhealthy habits that can lead to addiction.
Environment is a leading risk factor for addiction, and can play a major role in the way you perceive and use drugs and alcohol. Common environmental risk factors for addiction include your home life, community, school, family, and friends. But changing your environment can help you avoid people and situations that increase your risk for addiction.
If you’re unsure about whether your current friends are contributing to your addiction, consider whether they’ve ever helped you justify alcohol and drug use, or discouraged you from getting help. Toxic friends may even encourage you to consume higher amounts of drugs and alcohol, or spend the majority of their spare time getting drunk or high. If these behaviors are characteristic of your “friends,” it’s time to ditch your friends, and make new ones.
5. Be Proud of Yourself
If you’ve been able to recognize and accept that you’re struggling with addiction and need help, be proud of yourself for deciding to seek treatment. Factors like stigma prevent many from seeking the treatment they need to become healthier and sober. But deciding to overcome addiction allows you to take your health, livelihood, and future back into your own hands, and gives you another chance to make your life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Drug addiction recovery allows you to rebuild your health, repair relationships with friends and family, and go back to school so you can pursue your dream career. Overcoming addiction also teaches you how to embrace change, and how to practice gratitude and be thankful for what you have. Be proud of yourself for changing your stance on substance abuse, and for improving your attitude in positive ways that can help you avoid relapse and stay sober for life.
6. Get Involved with Things You Love
Investing more time into doing things you love can help steer you away from drugs and alcohol, and toward healthier activities that motivate you to stay sober. If you think you may be struggling with addiction, look for ways to become more involved with things you love — such as joining a chess club, resuming your fitness routine at the gym, or spending time with pets and animals. Another benefit to getting involved with things you love is surrounding yourself with other people who share the same interests, and with whom you can befriend on your road to sobriety.
If you need help establishing a new daily routine after overcoming addiction, or with discovering new interests and hobbies, consider going to an inpatient drug addiction recovery center that offers a variety of recreational therapies. Recreational therapies teach you how to have fun and be social without relying on drugs and alcohol. Examples of recreational therapies are music therapy, arts and crafts, yoga, horse therapy, sports, dancing, and community outings.
A recovery program can get you your life back; get help today!
7. Realize Recovery Isn’t a Race
Your journey to sobriety shouldn’t be viewed as a race, since addiction affects each person differently. The length of time you spend recovering from addiction depends on factors such as the amount of drugs and alcohol you use, your motivation to become sober, and whether you also suffer from a mental health disorder. For instance, some of your college peers with alcohol use disorder may have been drinking alcohol since their early teens, and require an extra two weeks for detox. On the other hand, those who recently started using marijuana may only require a few days of detox, and a few weeks of therapy to learn about new ways to manage triggers and stress.
Understand that recovery isn’t a race, and that it may take you anywhere between a few weeks and several years to fully overcome addiction. After you complete drug or alcohol detox, join a continuing care program that offers ongoing therapy in the form of counseling, support groups, relapse prevention training, and medication maintenance — all of which can help you stay on track with sobriety. Certain healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, good nutrition, and quality sleep can also give you the energy and mental boost needed to stay sober.
Getting Treatment as a Young Addict
Many college students avoid seeking addiction treatment under the impression that treatment is too costly, or that they require health insurance. But even the out-of-pocket cost for treatment is far lower than the amount of money you’ll end up spending throughout your life if you continue struggling with addiction without getting help. For instance, the average cost of one year of methadone maintenance therapy for opioid addiction is $4,700, while the cost of heroin addiction can reach as high as $72,000 per year.
If you need free or low-cost detox treatment, talk to an addiction specialist to see if you qualify for any scholarships or programs funded by the state or federal government. Some rehab centers offer sliding scale fees that base the cost of treatment on your income, or can work out other payment methods to make sure you get the treatment you need and deserve.
Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) to learn more about your addiction treatment options, and to find a nearby detox center. We’ll help you choose the best drug addiction recovery center ready to help you overcome your substance use disorder, and achieve a healthier, more fulfilling life free of addiction.