By MICHAEL LEACH Many Americans are choosing to move past the fear of COVID but still take precautions as the Delta Variant spreads. College campuses are going back to on-campus learning, and COVID will be a concern for some. However, what should worry
Many Americans are choosing to move past the fear of COVID but still take precautions as the Delta Variant spreads. College campuses are going back to on-campus learning, and COVID will be a concern for some. However, what should worry post-secondary institutions is the likely increase in mental health problems and substance abuse among college-age adults. During the summer of 2020, the CDC reported that around 40% of U.S. adults said they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse.
Additionally, in a 2020 Behavioral Health Impact Update, young people aged 18 to 40 have been hit the hardest in terms of mental concerns throughout the crisis. Approximately 71% of Generation Z workers reported mental health issues. College students are under significant pressure to succeed. Many college students work part-time, attend classes, maintain a social life, and do other extra-curricular activities. Coming back to school or starting school in the new year will likely look different, adding pressure and stress.
Unfortunately, there are numerous reasons why college-age students choose to abuse drugs or alcohol. These reasons include peer pressure, easy availability, curiosity, relaxation, college lifestyles, and social anxiety relief. However, if college students are aware of the risks, the likelihood of addiction is relatively low. The risks and dangers college students face are poor academic performance, legal problems, impaired driving, sexual assault, and psychological and physical health problems.
The best way to deal with substance abuse in college is to prevent it from happening. More college campuses are placing a significant emphasis on mental health services, especially post-pandemic. In addition, students who want support should find readily available sober activities and alternatives to the party culture, promotion of sobriety or safe alcohol consumption, family involvement in substance use prevention, and drinking prevention programs.
Many students get their first real experiences with substance use and abuse when they begin college. The freedom and ease of experimentation and recreational drug use are abundant. Drugs such as prescription stimulants, pain medication, alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and benzodiazepines are found on many college campuses. Drugs and alcohol are also very accepted and often seen as a natural part of everyday life and the college experience. This is the first impression that most new college students encounter.
However, the pandemic has re-shaped the way many people socialize and congregate. The constant fear from the media and resurging cases can still force people into isolation. Schools closures in 2020 and the lockdown measures added significant stress and caused isolation among millions of people. Readjusting to a social environment will not be easy for every person. Before going back or starting college, it is vital to ensure a support network is available.
When individuals experience increased psychological distress, they may rely on maladaptive coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. According to recent studies, over half of U.S. adults reported that the COVID-19 outbreak had a negative impact on their mental health. Pandemic-related stress, anxiety, and isolation increase the likelihood of substance abuse and misuse. It will not be uncommon for some college students to arrive at school with a pre-established drinking problem or drug use problem.
Managing these issues or preventing them from happening will take work and awareness as college students navigate the new school year post-pandemic. Parents, guardians, or caregivers need to talk to their loved ones about the dangers and the importance of communicating their problems. Parents play an essential role in all of this. Parents or caregivers should practice positive parenting and have a warm and loving relationship with their children.
Additionally, start a conversation about drugs early and continue through college. Approach drug use as a health issue and not a moral issue. Take steps to set limits on drug and alcohol use and teach kids about the dangers of binge drinking. The more active role the parents take, the better off their child will be when they enter the world of responsibility and adult-hood. Taking these steps does prevent substance abuse, which will be vital in a post-COVID world.
Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a regular contributor to the healthcare website www.Addicted.org and a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant.