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Drug Culture on the University Campus

By: Carol Morriscey

Drug use on University Campuses

Drug use is pervasive on university campuses. University is a time when young adults receive a real taste of freedom, and often take this time to experiment with many new experiences, including drugs. The increased freedom, high stress and pressure for peer conformity result in the perfect storm for drug abuse and dependence.

Over the past several years, rates of drug use have steadily increased on university campuses across Canada. Daily use of marijuana has increased continuously over the past decade and the illicit use of prescription pills such as Adderall and Ritalin has almost doubled. Students are particularly vulnerable to abusing such stimulants, as they are often termed “study drugs”. Finally, use of cocaine on university campuses doubled in 2015 alone. These statistics indicate the growing problem of drug use on university campuses.

The Effects of Drug Use

Often times, it is believed that occasional drug use is a normal part of the university experience, and does not warrant concern. However, there are many problems which stem from occasional drug use. Immediate consequences of occasional drug use include assault, injury, arrest, and in serious cases, even death. Some acute negative effects of occasional drug use may include missing class, falling behind in school work, and a lack of motivation. Unfortunately, there are also much more serious and long term consequences to occasional drug use. Health conditions which arise from drug use may begin developing even as a result of occasional drug use, such as increased risk of paranoia, anxiety, depression and increased blood pressure from cocaine use. Occasional amphetamine use can lead to heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, and cognitive impairments. Most importantly, occasional drug use which seems completely harmless is how many addictions begin. Dependence can develop very quickly, resulting in a debilitating addiction.

Changing the Culture on Campus

Many universities have begun to introduce sober spaces in order to address the ever growing drug culture. These are designated areas, such as dorms or student-groups where drug or alcohol use is not permitted and members encourage sobriety. This can be an excellent resource for an individual immersed in the drug-culture to combat their desire to use drugs, or for students who have no desire to use drugs.

The implementation of sober activities which encourage socializing without the pressure to use drugs is another way to dissociate drug-culture and university life. Although the association between university life and drug-use is pervasive, there needs to be a change in campus culture to promote the health and well-being of the university students.

Addiction Treatment for University Students

Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step in recovery. This may include increased time seeking or using the drug, increased amount of money spent on the drug, falling behind in school, and prioritizing drug use over other responsibilities. There are many places you may seek help, your family practitioner, on-campus mental health and addiction supports or Searidge Foundation. University only lasts four years, but without help the addictions which develop throughout your degree could last a lifetime.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals