Let’s Make April Alcohol Free

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and this year the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) has chosen underage drinking as the focus for the annual awareness campaign.  This is a pervasive problem that can have catastrophic, life-long consequences for our nation’s youth.  The statistics are shocking and show that our children are using alcohol early and abusing it long before the leave for college.  The good news is that the percentage of teenagers using and abusing doesn’t seem to be increasing.  The bad news is that it doesn’t seem to be declining either.  With nothing less than the lives and futures of our children at stake, we as a society cannot continue to shrug it off or sweep it under the rug.

The Facts

  • By age 10, 10% of our children have started drinking.
  • By age 13, that number more than triples, approaching 33%.
  • Teens that drank before they were 15 are 5 times more likely to have a problem with alcohol dependence in the last year than those who waited until they were old enough to drink legally.
  • In 2006, almost 30% of American teens between the ages of 12 and 20 report drinking during the past month, with 20% binge drinking and 6% drinking heavily.
  • Binge drinking is common amongst teenagers who drink and 25% of students drank more than 5 drinks in a row within the past 30 days.
  • College students suffer around 600,000 alcohol-related injuries each year and alcohol-related injuries claim the lives of 1,700 college students each year.
  • There are 100,000 alcohol-related sexual assaults or date rapes committed against college students each year.
  • Children of alcoholics may be as much as 10 times more likely to become alcoholics as their peers.

The Dangers

  • Statistics show that underage drinking increases a person’s risk of having an alcohol problem later in life.
  • Alcohol abuse increases the risk factor for developing cancer of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus as well as liver disease.
  • Underage drinking is one of the main causes of death from injuries which is the leading cause of death for Americans under 21.
  • Each year, underage drinking and alcohol-related injuries take the lives of 5,000 people, 38% are car accidents, 32% from homicide, and 6% from suicide.
  • Teenagers are more likely to participate in risky sexual activity when alcohol is involved which results in unplanned and unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, date rape, unplanned pregnancy, and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Prevention Tips for Parents and Teens

  1. Parents – Talk to your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Help them understand the consequences and why it is illegal for people to drink before they are 21.
  2. Teens – Don’t be afraid to say no.  Don’t let someone else make your decisions for you.
  3. Parents – Be a good role model and set a good example.  Your teen is more likely to listen to you if you are practicing what you preach.
  4. Teens – Talk to your parents.  Ask questions and make sure you understand the real dangers of drinking.
  5. Parents & Teens – Agree on how you will both handle situations that arise where your teen is present at an event where other teens are drinking alcohol.  By agreeing ahead of time, teens won’t need to be afraid that their parents will freak out, call the police, and ground them until college, and parents will understand how critical their reaction is to maintaining the lines of communication.

Go Alcohol Free

As part of the awareness campaign, NCADD is inviting all Americans to engage in an alcohol-free weekend from April 6 to April 8, 2012 to help spread awareness about alcohol abuse and underage drinking.  For more information about Alcohol Awareness Month, visit NCADD’s website.

Drunkorexia (Eating Disorders & Alcohol): What Parents Should Know

Most people have heard of anorexia, but have you heard of “Drunkorexia”?  Though not an official diagnosis, this term refers to food restriction and alcohol consumption.  It has become more prevalent among young adults.  It is especially common in college students that are trying to keep themselves thin.  Parents should be aware of this issue so that they can help their adolescents overcome it so that it does not take over their life.  Catching this early is the key to making a full recovery before it begins to get out of hand.

 

What Is” Drunkorexia”?

“Drunkorexia” is a combination of excessive alcohol consumption and eating disorder behaviors. Generally, college age students will skip meals during the day in order to keep their weight down and the calories that they save is spent on alcohol.  A new study conducted by the University of Missouri that found girls are much more susceptible to this combination than guys.

People that are “Drunkorexic” will purge the alcohol they consume in the attempt to not gain weight

Double Downsides

The problem that teens and young adults are facing is that “Drunkorexia” causes double downsides.  While inadequate nutrition is something that can cause many health issues, the over consumption of alcohol poses many risks as well.  They will not only reap the physical repercussions of anorexia or bulimia, they will also have issues with alcohol abuse including alcohol poisoning and malnutrition.  While intoxicated, teens and college students are also much more likely to fall victim to physical or sexual abuse.

What to Look For

It is a good idea to educate yourself about this disorder, especially if your college student has a history of eating disorders or drinking.  There are a few signs that you can look for that will help you to recognize Drunkorexia in your adolescent.  Here are a few of these signs:

  • Frequently skipping meals
  • Spending a lot of money but having nothing to show for it
  • Poor grades
  • Poor class attendance
  • Rapid weight loss

The Good News

Most college campuses have recognized that eating disorder behaviors are a wide spread issue and they offer classes on nutrition and healthy living.  They offer many counseling services to students to educate them on the risks involved with both eating disorders and alcohol abuse.

Also, there are counseling programs that will offer help to adolescents that are already sunk into the “Drunkorexic” trap.  Whether you have issues with binge drinking, anorexia, bulimia, or a combination, help is available.  Most adolescents will not admit to themselves that they have a problem.  It often takes the help of a friend or parent to get them the help they need.

Doorways offers many treatment options for those who are dealing with eating and alcohol disorders.  Counseling is typically needed to overcome these disorders and when you choose Doorways as your treatment provider, you will be able to get the help that you need in a faith-based setting.  This is definitely great news for those that are dealing with “Drunkorexia.  “

 

Substance Abuse in College Students

Bonging is popular among college students.

Overview

Statistics about college students and substance abuse are cause for alarm.  According to a report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse atColumbiaUniversitypublished in 2007, half of all college students binge drink and/or abuse both prescription and illicit drugs.  One out of every four college students meets the medical criteria for substance dependence which is two and a half times the national average.  When you factor in the long term consequences of these behaviors and the cost of college tuition, many college students are on a very expensive road to nowhere. 

There are severe short term consequences of these behaviors as well.  Researchers estimate that 1,700 college students die each year from unintentional alcohol related causes.  The incidence of acquaintance rape, drunk driving, assault, and other serious criminal acts has been shown to increase significantly when alcohol is present. As many as 80% of all campus arrests are alcohol related. 

Are things getting better or worse? 

There are several studies that have been tracking college age substance use over the last 10-15 years and the findings are not encouraging.  The percentage of college students who drank in the fifteen year period from 1993 to 2005 was relatively stagnant at 70% and the percentage of binge drinkers remained constant at 40%.  And this is the good news.

The first area where a significant increase has been noted is in the number of students who binge drink frequently, rising 16% from 1993 to 2001. Increases were also noted in the number of students who drink more than 10 times a month (25%), those who get drunk three or more times a month (26%), and those who drink with the sole purpose of getting drunk (21%).  This means that although the number of college students who are drinking hasn’t increased, the ones who are drinking are drinking more and drinking more often.

The second area where a significant increase is emerging is in the use and abuse of prescription drugs.  The increases in the use of these substances are so high they almost seem outlandish with increases of 450% in the use of drugs like Xanax and 343% in the use of drugs like Vicodin and Percocet.    Adderall, which is the prescription drug that has gotten the most press for abuse by college students, actually has the lowest percentage increase from 1993 to 2001 at 93%.

The third area where increases tell a disturbing story is in the use of illicit drugs.  In the 15 year time span between 1993 and 2005 the percentage of college students using illicit drugs saw significant increases in all areas.  The use of marijuana on a daily basis more than doubled while the use of all other illicit drugs including cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy, and hallucinogens increased by 52%.

It is clear to see that the programs and systems put in place over the last two decades to turn the tide of drug and alcohol abuse by American college students are failing.  This means more college students are suffering the consequences of these risky behaviors.

Who is at the highest risk?

Research from the Monitoring the Future organization indicates that there are some subgroups within the college environment which have a higher incidence of substance abuse and therefore are at a greater risk for developing substance abuse problems.  College students who participate in the Greek system and belong to fraternities or sororities are more likely to abuse substances and participate in risky behavior than their non-Greek peers.  Almost 90% of those students who participate in the Greek system drink alcohol compared to 67% of other students.  Students in the Greek system are also more likely to binge drink, 67% vs. 37%, drink and drive, 33% vs. 21%, and smoke marijuana, 21% vs. 16%.   Another subgroup at a higher risk is incoming freshman, 45% of whom were classified as heavy drinkers in 2001. 

Male college students are more likely than female students to have used any illicit drug in the previous 12 month period and for most of the individual illicit drugs, male students were twice as likely as their female counterparts to have used that drug in the last year.  Male students also use marijuana and alcohol on a daily basis at a rate twice that of female students.  All these statistics indicate that male students are at greater risk of substance abuse problems during their college career.

Other research indicates that there are regional differences in the use of alcohol and all drugs that may put some students at higher risk than others.  Students in the Northeast and West have a higher incidence of illicit drug use across the board.  The use of methamphetamines, crystal meth, and ecstasy is the highest in the Western states.  Alcohol use and abuse, including the highest prevalence of binge drinking, occurs more in the Northeast andMidwest.  

Consequences of Abuse

The consequences of substance abuse by college students can be both significant and severe.  Statistics show that the incidence of criminal activity like assault, vandalism, acquaintance rape, and driving under the influence increases with the use of alcohol or other substances.  In 2001 alone, more than 1700 students died as a result of alcohol related injuries.  The number of students who hurt themselves as a result of drinking went up by 38% between 1993 and 2001.  Arrests on college campuses that were alcohol related increased by more than 20% from 2001 to 2005 and accounted for more than 80% of all campus arrests in 2005.  Almost 100,000 students in 2001 alone were victims of an alcohol related rape or sexual assault and nearly 700,000 were assaulted by another student who was binge drinking.

The academic consequences of these behaviors cannot be understated.   According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Task Force on College Drinking, one of the main impacts of alcohol use on college campuses is failure to meet academic obligations.  As many as 25% of college students have experienced some academic problem because of their alcohol use including failing tests, skipping classes, falling behind on class work, missing deadlines for papers and projects, and getting lower grades than expected. 

The link between alcohol consumption and grades is so significant it can be used as an indicator.  The findings of a survey conducted over a 3 year period that included almost 100,000 students found that the number of drinks consumed per week directly correlated to the student’s grade point average as follows:

  • Students with A averages consumed 4 drinks per week
  • Students with B averages consumed 6 drinks per week
  • Students with C averages consumed 8 drinks per week
  • Students with D or F averages consumed as many as 10 drinks per week

These findings make it easy to see why there is also a direct relationship between alcohol consumption and college drop-out rates. 

Students who abuse alcohol or other substances are not the only ones impacted by their behavior.  Other students on campus are consistently subjected to circumstances that impact their college experience because of substance abuse by others.  Almost 60% of college students have had to miss sleep or found themselves unable to study because of another student’s drinking or drug use. The safety of students is also compromised by the use of alcohol or drugs by other students.  Almost 30% of students report being insulted or humiliated by another student and 15% have had personal property damaged by someone else’s intoxicated negligence.  These students also find themselves as the victim in many of the crimes mentioned above.

What Makes College Students So Susceptible?

When students make the transition from high school to college, it can be the most challenging experience of their young lives.  The volatility of this time period puts students at risk as they search for new social connections and try to find their place in their new environment.  Additionally, there is this mainstream idea that part of the college experience is drinking, experimenting, and behaving with reckless abandon which leads many students to seek out these experiences as soon as they arrive on campus.  College students are also in the highest risk age group for heavy alcohol consumption and experimentation with the use of multiple substances. 

College students also find themselves dealing with new kinds of stress and pressures that they may be unprepared to handle including financial obligations and responsibility, making major life altering decisions, and separating from parents and other support systems.  Students also look to alcohol and drugs as the means to ensure social acceptance and as tools to create confidence when they are feeling unsure and insecure in their new environment. 

Living arrangements do seem to play a part in determining whether or not a student will use alcohol or other substances.  Students who live at home and commute to college are less likely than those who live in residence halls to abuse alcohol.  However, hovering parents who continually insert themselves into their child’s life can keep college students from achieving the appropriate level of maturity they need in order for them to transition into responsible adults.  Parents who make major decisions for their college age child and regularly rescue them from the consequences of their actions don’t allow them space and opportunity to learn how to make the right decision in difficult situations.

College students are also less likely to seek help, even when they are in very real trouble, because of the social stigma associated with alcohol dependence and drug addiction.

Conclusion

The abundance of research on substance abuse by college students shows that the situation is not improving.  Despite efforts to curb alcohol use and access to illicit drugs on college campuses, the prevailing public attitude that drinking and experimenting with drugs are part of the college experience continues to undermine the ability to make real, lasting changes.  Students are engaging in risky behavior like unprotected sex, driving under the influence, and experimentation with all types of drugs in alarming numbers and many students are paying a steep price for this self-discovery.  As long as it remains socially acceptable and even socially commendable to participate in binge drinking and swap study time for sorority parties, it will be difficult to make the high in higher education mean what it used to mean.