Whether you decide to drink or use drugs or not, being informed about the impact that alcohol and drugs can have on your health, academics, and social life, as well as what you can do about it, and which resources are available on campus, can help you make informed decisions about the way you interact with these substances during your college life and beyond.

 

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS ABUSE ALCOHOL AND DRUGS?

Everyone is doing it! Why not? The risk can’t be that great. It makes me relax and I have more fun that way.

Do you relate to any of these answers? The answer is probably yes, because these are common thoughts among college students. However, it’s important to distinguish the myths from the facts. Take a look at some of those myths here (link to pdf with list of myths below)

 

  • MYTH: My friends will think I'm weird if I don't drink.
    • TRUTH: Friends are you friends no matter what - and they won't give up your friendship over something as silly as a beer. Also, keep in mind that most people are usually too focused on themselves to care what others are — or aren't — doing.
  • MYTH: Everyone drinks.
    • TRUTH: Not true. Although 31% of teens said they've drank alcohol in the past month that still leaves 69% who did not! If you choose not to drink, you're definitely not alone.
  • MYTH: Beer is less intoxicating than other types of alcoholic beverage.
    • FACT: One 12-ounce can of beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine or one normal mixed drink or cocktail are all equally intoxicating.
  • MYTH: Switching between beer, wine, and liquor will make you drunker.
    • FACT: Mixing types of drinks may make you sicker by upsetting your stomach, but not more intoxicated. Alcohol is alcohol.
  • MYTH: Cold Showers, fresh air or hot coffee help sober a person.
    • FACT: Only time will remove alcohol from the system. It takes the body approximately two hours to eliminate the alcohol in one pint of beer (general estimates). An old saying goes, "give a drunk a cup of coffee and all you have is a wide-awake drunk”. To read more about how long alcohol stays in your body go here
  • MYTH: Eating a big meal before you drink will keep you sober.
    • FACT: Drinking on a full stomach will only delay the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, not prevent it. Eating before you drink is not a defense against getting drunk.
  • MYTH: Everyone reacts to alcohol in the same way.
    • FACT: Many factors that affect a person's reaction to alcohol — body weight, metabolism, gender, body chemistry, and many others.
  • MYTH: Alcohol gives you energy.
    • TRUTH: This statement is false. Alcohol is a depressant, and can actually make you sleepy. It slows down your motor skills which control the way you think, speak, move and react.

 

Other common reasons why students drink and use drugs

While many AUP students will choose not to drink or not to use other drugs, or decide to engage in these behaviors in safe and moderate ways, many see experimenting with drugs and alcohol during their college years as a rite of passage. These and other reasons listed below may be misleading and drag students into behaviors that get out of their control.

  • Believing it will make them more social or sexually desirable.
  • Enjoying newfound freedoms they didn’t have while living under their parents’ roof
  • Taking advantage of being in age to drink in France
  • Using it as a strategy to cope with stress, anxiety or even boredom.
  • Being curious about their effects
  • Feeling under peer pressure and wishing to fit into a particular crowd.

Alcohol and substance abuse can be attributed to any one of these factors but it is often a combination of the above reasons and myths that lead college students to lose control and use them in unmoderated ways that can lead to developing an addiction.

Effects of Alcohol and Drugs

With so much at stake for college students, it’s important to be informed about the risks that are being taken by doing alcohol and drugs during college.

Alcohol

Alcohol has become the most commonly abused drug among college students and therefore so ingrained in campus culture that is becoming socially acceptable for college students to get drunk while out with friends. This makes it harder for students to see the harm in it. Unfortunately, college students that frequently drink are more likely to experience:

  • Trouble at school
  • Legal problems
  • Higher risk of suicide
  • Higher risk of assault
  • Changes in brain development
  • Increased chance of alcohol addiction
  • Memory problems
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • lethal accidents
  • Poor decision making
  • Impact on mental health, including mood swings, depression, irritability and anxiety
Cannabis (Marijuana)

THC and CBD are the active components in Cannabis.  THC is a psychoactive composite that makes a person feel high, different from CBD which does not produce a high feeling and is used for medical reasons. These components come in different forms and strengths and there are different ways people use them (which affects each person differently):

Cannabis can be used by smoking (in a joint or using a pipe or bong), vaping (inhaling the vapor containing the released TCH) or dabbing/hash oil (where the concentration of TCH is higher and may take effect very quickly). Dabbing is extremely potent and shouldn't be used by anyone who hasn't used marijuana before. It can also be used as edibles (drinks, food and candies cooked with cannabis products that contain THC). When using edibles, the effects can take longer to peak (up to four hours) but they last much longer than when smoking (up to ten hours or longer). The delay in the effects can cause people to take too much and also, commercially-available edibles use standard servings sizes but when using homemade edibles, the doses are unknown. Topicals are infused lotions or balms often with a higher CBD content than THC. They are sold for localized pain and inflammation and they do not make the user feel high.

 

While there is evidence for some medical benefits to cannabis, there are also some potential harms:

  • Respiratory effects such as a daily cough, bronchitis, mucus, and wheezing.
  • Affected memory
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, and not knowing what is real (particularly people with backgrounds of psychosis or psychotic disorders)
  • Secondhand smoke which has many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as secondhand smoke from tobacco.
Adderall And Other Study Drugs

Study drugs are any prescribed medication that acts like stimulant and is used to increase concentration, energy and endurance such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall. Unfortunately, even though this is medication prescribed under medical regulation, some students without this kind of supervision manage to get access to the substances and misuse it.

Adderall is an Amphetamine that boosts mental and physical performance and is therefore usually called by students the “college crack.” The user feels energized, stronger and self-assured because of the hyperstimulation throughout the brain and body. These affects may allow a person to accomplish more than they usually would without the drug. It becomes therefore very attractive for the person to want to

repeat these feelings over and over again and lead this way to an addiction. Abuse of this substance can have important side effects on your mental and physical health.

Ecstasy or Molly and MDMA Drugs

This is known as the party drug because it produces a boost of energy and euphoric high which makes it extremely popular on college campuses. Ecstasy is frequently mixed with other drugs, like amphetamines, alcohol or caffeine to produce a stronger high. They are therefore highly addictive and can cause:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increase heart rate
  • Dehydration

While only a small number of deaths have been reported due to MDMA drugs, the risk exists as well as the severe side effects and the high probability of developing an addiction.

Drug abuse and suicide among college students

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and according to several research, alcohol and drug abuse has contributed to the growing number of suicides among college students. Students that engage in regular abuse of drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • Social isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of work or school
  • Estrangement from friends and family

These factors make a person more vulnerable to suicidal ideation and adding the fact that substance abuse decreases inhibitions and increases impulsiveness, the likelihood that someone will act on their suicidal thoughts and ideations increases. In fact, recent research is also tending to prove that often overdoses can disguise suicides.

Safer Use of Alcohol and Drugs

AUP parties, France’s culture with wine, AMEX, social gatherings at bars… you will inevitably be faced with choices that involve substances (alcohol and possibly other drugs).  Think about what you’re comfortable with before being put into a situation. Moderation/balance is key to being healthy and making choices that you don’t regret later. 

We don’t need alcohol or any other drug to be happy. On the other hand, it is normal to enjoy things that make us feel good. Keep in mind though that it is not the alcohol that makes us feel good, but rather the dancing, the discussions, the music, the people we’re with while having a drink.

Although you don’t need the alcohol, a healthy choice made while drinking can end in a great time.  An unhealthy choice, or the use of alcohol for the wrong reasons usually leads to trouble. The best way to avoid all potential harms of drugs and alcohol is to not use them. But if you choose to use them, here are some ways you can lower your risk for potential harms.

Alcohol

Everyone knows not to drink and drive, but have you thought through the risks of unprotected/undesired sex, risk of alcohol poisoning (tolerance level), possible theft or mugging in the street, etc? Ask yourself before drinking: how much money am I willing to spend? Where am I sleeping tonight? Do I trust the people I’m going out with? What do I have to do tomorrow? Have I recently had too much to drink?

  • Eat before and while drinking
  • Choose drinks with less alcohol
  • Keep track of your drinks
  • Stay with the same group of friends.
  • Set your own personal limit ahead of time
  • have a plan to get home safely
  • Avoid drinking games
Cannabis

If you decide to use cannabis, it is important to be informed not only about the potential medical benefits but also about its risks (read section on effects of alcohol and drugs) and choose to use it in ways that lower your risk for potential harms:

  • Limit your use
  • Check your doses
  • Know your limits
  • Consider a different method
  • Avoid driving

Helping Yourself/A Friend/A Student

Students should all take the time to regularly examine their own behaviors, experiences, and motivations to make sure that they are still in line with their goals, why they came to AUP, what they want to accomplish, etc.

If you are drinking too much for example, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your drinking ever make you late for class?
  • Does your drinking worry your family and friends?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?

Do you get headaches or have a hang-over after you have been drinking?

You may not need to stop drinking alcohol but you may want to cut down.

 

Talking out things may be the most underrated method of preventing abuse and addiction but in many cases, struggling students benefit greatly from a compassionate friend and a listening ear.

Whether you are a friend, a classmate or a professor you can make a difference in their life. Maybe you are hurting, and you wonder where to look for help. Some warning signs that it may be time to offer or seek help:

  • Isolation from friends
  • Withdrawing from activities that were once enjoyed
  • Sudden spikes in substance abuse
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Substance abuse while alone
  • Unable to function or feel good without substance
  • Experience nausea, sweatiness, anxiety or confusion as a result of using or not using a substance

We are here to help you make healthy decisions for yourself and feel empowered to look out for your peers. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.