Did You Know? Drug Abuse in College

Angie Chapman

This week we have decided to tackle a big subject with many facets: drug abuse. Because it is near impossible to cover all grounds, we zoomed in on a few areas that are important, particularly to Colgate.

During an interview with Jane Jones, the Coordinator of Drug and Alcohol Education, she informed us that prestigious liberal arts universities that reside on the East Coast and have D-I sports teams tend to have heavier drinking cultures than any other colleges and universities in the United States.

In a survey taken by Colgate students in 2006, Colgate found that we exceed the national percentage rates of problematic experiences related to alcohol consumption. For example, 78 percent of Colgate students have experienced a hangover, whereas 62 percent of students across the nation have. Reportedly, 54 percent of Colgate students experienced memory loss, whereas 34 percent of students across that nation have. Relatively speaking, Colgate has a rather unique drinking culture.

Now, we don’t want to push your perception of the drinking culture here too far. Not all of our perceptions are realities. As Jane Jones said, it is actually most often the case that students here assume “everybody else is doing more of everything at Colgate than they actually do.” The perception of late has been that 95 percent of students here drink more than once a week, but the reality is that only 41 percent of students do. It is thought that 59 percent of the student population had three or more sex partners. The reality was actually seven percent. According to statistics, 72 percent of students felt that alcohol facilitated sexual opportunity, which is interesting when only 27 percent of students have had sex under the influence.

Even though our perceptions overestimate the reality of alcohol consumption, we need to take into account how much our perceptions drive our behavior. Because we assume that more people are drinking, we may feel pressure to engage in such activities. In fact, 54 percent of the students surveyed in 2006 said that they felt peer pressured into drinking alcohol.

With these statistics about Colgate University in mind, we want you to consider the next two forms of substance abuse: binge drinking and the use of prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin.

Did you know that binge drinking is defined as consuming four to five alcoholic drinks in a row per night? When defining binge drinking in this way, is Colgate the exception or the epitome of this definition? As Colgate students, we are constantly competing – competing with ourselves, competing for grades, competing for attention, and competing amongst our peers. Has our need to succeed in all aspects of our lives ultimately led to an addiction that has become so normalized around us that we don’t even know it’s unhealthy? If reportedly 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, why isn’t this issue at the forefront of college life? If drinking to “get drunk” is not harmful to the college students, then why are more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape? As Colgate students, we must take responsibility for ourselves, our actions, and our peers.

Did you know that since 1993 the use of prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, has increased by 93 percent amongst non-prescribed college users? Adderall and Ritalin are amphetamines, which means they increase energy and alertness, as well as elevate mood, suppress hunger and decrease fatigue.

They are prescribed to people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); however people who are not diagnosed with ADD often use these drugs to help them focus on their schoolwork. Often times these drugs are not used in moderation. They are commonly sought after during exam time, when students are under pressure to produce large sums of work in little time. When used in high doses, these drugs increase blood pressure, irritability, insomnia and often result in dependence.

When someone abruptly withdraws from these drugs there is often a decrease in energy, increase in appetite and possible weight gain. Most college Adderall users don’t see this use as a problem; they use Adderall in small doses during crunch periods. The problem is when dependence occurs, the effects of these drugs are often at first positive and students find they can do mass amounts of work without breaks and actually enjoy it. It is a favorite among female students because it seriously suppresses appetite while giving one large burst of energy. Over time these drugs have serious affects and are very unhealthy but their popularity is increasing. Why is it that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are becoming so popular at universities like Colgate?

With the beginning statement by Jane Jones in mind, is this a result of the increasing pressure that universities put on their students? Are students overextending themselves so much that there is a need for multiple types of drugs to help deal with the stresses of college life?