It is not uncommon for college-aged individuals to experiment with drugs or alcohol. However, sometimes that experimentation goes too far and, for some students, turns into a full-fledged addiction. When this happens, the person’s education and entire future are at stake, which is why he or she must enroll in a treatment program right away. Regardless of how grim the outlook seems for a college-aged addict, achieving sobriety and returning to school is possible with the proper care and support.
The Most Commonly Abused Drugs At College
To help a young adult recover from addiction his or her loved ones and treatment professionals must first understand to which drug or drugs he or she is addicted. Though the drug of choice varies from student to student, there are certain drugs that college-aged individuals most commonly abuse. Those include the following:
- Alcohol: Alcohol has and continues to make up the majority of substance-abuse problems on college campuses across the nation. Unfortunately, because drinking is socially acceptable, it may be difficult for students to recognize when a peer has an addiction.
- Opiates: The use of opioids among college students has drastically risen in the past two decades, a trend experts don’t anticipate to slow down any time soon.
- Cocaine: 69% of cocaine users started using the drug for the first time during years one through four of college. Lifetime cocaine use has more than tripled in recent years, from 4% to 13% of users.
- Heroin: On an average day in the past year, 4,570 full-time college students used heroin.
- Adderall: Often touted as the “study drug of choice,” an alarming number of college students abuse Adderall and similar medications, such as Ritalin. Though most students don’t view these drugs as being “dangerous,” several recent studies reveal overuse and abuse can cause complications, such as gastrointestinal problems, increased heart rate, increased body temperature, blurred vision, irritability, and reduced circulation. In rare cases, it may result in death.
Any drug, regardless of how harmless it may seem to a person, his or her peers, or even his or her parents, has the potential for abuse. College students are especially susceptible to drug abuse, which is why parents, friends, and loved ones should recognize the signs of abuse and encourage the student to seek help before he or she can cause too much damage to his or her education and future. With the right support, going back to college after recovery is a likely possibility.
Signs of Drug Abuse and Addiction
Despite popular belief, drug addiction is characterized by specific signs and symptoms regardless of an addict’s drug of choice. Substance abuse disorders are often characterized by physical, psychological, and behavioral changes, which may include the following:
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Frequent bloodshot eyes or runny nose
- Decline in appearance/personal hygiene
- Negative changes in personality, such as lack of motivation, agitation, and irritability
- Tremors, shakes, or slurred speech
- Frequent need for money/financial issues
- Slipping grades and neglect of responsibilities
Of course, every addict is different, which is why it often takes a close friend or loved one to recognize uncharacteristic behavior and drug abuse.
Returning to School After Addiction
Many individuals assume that drug addiction during college means the end of the addict’s higher education. This does not have to be the case. Going back to school while in recovery is possible with the right care and support. However, to ensure the young adult’s success and future sobriety, there are certain things both the addict and his or her loved ones should know.
Consider Alternative Schooling Options
It’s never a good idea for an addict to go back to the same or similar environment in which he or she developed his or her addiction. If it’s both yours and your student’s hope that he or she will return to and finish school, consider an alternative to a traditional college or university.
One popular alternative is a sober school. Because Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are the fastest-growing demographic seeking treatment for substance abuse, more campuses are beginning to offer sober options. Some such options include sober extracurricular activities, sober study pods, and sober dorms, all of which allow students to enjoy the college experience without the pressure to use drugs or alcohol.
Another alternative is online classes. For many recovering addicts, school may be a trigger in and of itself. For these individuals, online courses offer the opportunity to continue their education without dealing with common campus stressors, which may include crowds and strict schedules.
Prepare To Return to School
Regardless of how a recovering addict chooses to continue his or her education, the truth is that he or she will not be able to avoid stressful circumstances altogether. School is stressful in and of itself, as it comes with tight deadlines, a lot of studying, and enormous expectations. A student with a history of drug abuse needs to learn how to cope with that stress in healthy ways, which may mean altering his or her lifestyle to include stress-relieving activities. Some such activities may include meditation, yoga, running, or simply watching a funny video.
Don’t Rush a Return
Ultimately, the best thing a student who struggles with drug addiction can do to ensure future success in his or her academic endeavors is to wait until the timing is right. It’s okay to wait for one, two, or even five years post-treatment to return to school. Once a person is better able to manage and overcome stress, he or she will have a better chance of completing his or her degree without relapsing.
Going back to school after recovery or even while undergoing treatment is possible. The key lies in finding the best treatment program for the addict’s lifestyle and needs.