Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug abuse and addiction affects millions of Americans. Abuse and addiction not only affect users but also the people surrounding them. College is a time when binge drinking occurs most often, which has potentially dangerous outcomes. Students also may begin to experiment with other substances.

Drugs and alcohol are dangerous toxins that poison the body and can lead a person into a life of agony and disappointment. Substance abuse not only leads to physical problems, but psychological problems as well.

Alcohol and Drug Biennial Review (PDF).

What is addiction?

Addiction has many different definitions and is a controversial term. People can suffer from both physical and psychological addiction.

Generally, addiction includes:

  • Drug craving and drug seeking 
  • An inability to stop using, due to physical and psychological consequences or withdrawal
  • Feeling that you need the substance to function 
  • Continuing to use substances despite negative consequences such as legal problems, academic problems and relationship conflicts.

Addicts often try to limit their use following negative consequences but tend to fail in doing so. They also feel guilty for their use but are unable to stop.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse involves using drugs or alcohol to change the way you feel about yourself. Abusers may experience some negative consequences of their use, but are able to begin to limit their use to prevent further consequences.

Usually, substance abusers will keep those limits. Substance abusers may receive complaints about their use from others but accept them as concern. It is not unlikely for a substance abuser to develop into an addict.

Warning Signs of Addiction

Addiction to any drug may include these general characteristics:

  • Feeling that you need the drug on a regular basis to have fun, relax or deal with your problems 
  • Giving up familiar activities such as sports, homework, or hobbies 
  • Sudden changes in work or school attendance and quality of work or grades 
  • Doing things you normally wouldn't do to obtain drugs, such as frequently borrowing money or stealing items from employer, home or school 
  • Taking uncharacteristic risks, such as driving under the influence or sexually risky behavior 
  • Anger outbursts, acting irresponsibly and overall attitude change 
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and grooming. 
  • Wearing sunglasses and/or long sleeve shirts frequently or at inappropriate times 
  • No longer spending time with friends who don't use drugs and/or associating with known users 
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors such as frequent trips to storage rooms, restroom, basement, etc. 
  • Needing to use more of the drug of choice to achieve the same effects 
  • Talking about drugs all the time and pressuring others to use with you 
  • Feeling exhausted, depressed, hopeless, or suicidal

But I only drink alcohol, I don't do drugs.

Alcohol is a drug. In fact, the physical withdrawal from alcohol is more dangerous than most drugs, including heroin. Since binge drinking occurs so often on college campuses, there is a concern of students drinking to the point of acute alcohol poisoning.

Acute alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks too much, too fast. Without knowing the proper signs and symptoms, students often leave their drunken friends alone to "sleep it off."

Unfortunately, many of these students never awake because their blood alcohol content continues to rise after they stop drinking.

Never leave a drunken friend alone, especially when they are showing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness
  • Slow respiration (eight or less breaths per minute or lapse of more than 10 minutes)
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • Strong odor of alcohol
  • Repeated episodes of vomiting
  • Vomiting while sleeping or passed out, and not waking up after vomiting

What should I do if I think someone has acute alcohol poisoning??

  • If you encounter someone with one or more of the above symptoms, call 911  immediately. 
  • While waiting for the ambulance, gently turn the intoxicated person on his or her side and maintain that position. This keeps the airway open, and prevents choking if the person vomits. 
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

Why does acute alcohol poisoning occur?

Acute alcohol poisoning happens because the liver can only metabolize one drink (5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. of distilled liquor or 12 oz. beer) per hour. When people binge drink or drink too fast, the liver gets behind, and more alcohol enters the blood stream, which then directly affects the brain.

Statistics

  • Between two and three percent of the current American college population will die from alcohol related causes. 
  • Thirty percent of college failure is alcohol related. 
  • Drinking and driving is the number one killer of Americans between the ages of 17-24. 
  • In the U.S. , 70 people are killed daily in drunk driving accidents; that is roughly one person killed every 22 minutes. 
  • 69 percent of all drownings are alcohol related. 
  • One in every three suicides involves alcohol. 
  • The average female college student spends $150 per year on alcohol. 
  • The average male college student spends $300 per year on alcohol. 
  • The average DUI arrest costs the charged person $3,000. 
  • Alcohol plays a role in 50 percent of all arrests. 
  • 90 percent of the vandalism that occurs on college campuses is a result of alcohol use. 
  • 75 to 90 percent of campus rapes involve alcohol use. 
  • 75 percent of men and 50 percent of women involved in sexual assaults had been drinking prior to the assault. 
  • The abuse of alcohol is present in 70 percent of all murders and other violent crimes. 
  • 54 percent of alcoholics have an alcoholic parent. 
  • One out of three Americans don't drink, and that's okay. 

If you or someone you know leads a life of addiction or questions their drug and alcohol consumption, please seek help.


Links to local recovery in our area: 

Narcotics Anonymous:  http://www.naws.org/meetingsearch/index.php

Alcoholics Anonymous:  http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa

Al -Anon: http://al-anon.org/find-a-meeting

Alateen: http://al-anon.org/find-a-meeting


For more information on substance abuse visit:

• The National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.nida.nih.gov/ 

• College Drinking Prevention for information specifically about Acute Alcohol Poisoning

Detox and Rehabilitation Services

Prescription Drug Abuse in College Students

Prescription drugs that are intended for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are increasingly abused on college campuses.  Medications most often prescribed include Ritalin and Adderall. We often see an increase in abuse due to students' desire to increase academic performance.

These medications require a prescription. Ritalin itself is in the same family as cocaine and Adderall is made with amphetamines. Users experience euphoria and has a greater ability to stay awake and focus. There are, however, side effects associated with the abuse of these medications:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Twitching

Studies show that students who abuse these prescription stimulants are more likely to use more than one kind of drug and are four times as likely to experience three or more of the following problems:

  • Withdrawal
  • Memory loss
  • Flashbacks
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Inability to quit using

Studies show that there is not necessarily a positive correlation between "study drug" use and good grades.  Instead, non-prescription users had significantly lower grade point averages and 21 percent more classes.

  The above information can be found at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/college-health/college-ritalin-
  and-the-misuse-of-prescription-drugs.aspx
 and http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/06/02/non_medical_prescription_drug_use_discussed
  _at_annual_acha_college_health_meeting

Increase in drug and alcohol use on college campuses. Here's a few statistics:

  • Almost half of full-time college students binge drink, abuse prescription drugs or abuse illegal drugs. In 2005, almost one-quarter of those college students met the medical definition of substance abuse or dependence - three times the rate in the general population 
  • The rater of excessive drinking jumped 16 percent from 1993-2005 
  • Alcohol-related arrests per campus rose 21 percent from 2001-2005 
  • Prescription drug abuse rose 343 percent from 1993-2005 for painkillers and opioids.
  • Student deaths from unintentional alcohol-related injuries rose 56 percent and non-fatal injuries rose 38 percent from 1998-2001

To read more of the above information, please visit: http://www.collegebingedrinking.net/wasting-the-college-years-college-student-drug-abuse-and-binge-drinking.html

Resolve Crisis Network: 1.888.7.YOU CAN (1.888.796.8226)
www.upmc.com/resolvecrisis

Visit the La Roche University Counseling Center in Bold Hall Rooms 261 & 259. Schedule an appointment with a counselor by calling 412-847-2506.