Treatments for Substance Use Disorders Among College Students

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Treatment for Substance Use Disorders Among College Students is available on most campuses and within the surrounding community. According to the NSDUH 2013 study, full-time college students, aged 18-22 reported that 59.4% were currently drinking and 39% reported binge drinking [3, 5].

According to a 2014 USA Today study, surveyed campus and local security directors of 343 colleges nationally to learn how Universities handled alcohol-related incidents on and off campuses.

The survey found that college security responses tended to involve referring students for discipline or sanctions to other school divisions. Rarely were citations given and students were not typically referred for health or alcohol abuse counseling [3]

Mental Health Services Available for College Students

Student health counselors are an available resource and are able to work with the students, while maintaining confidentiality. Therapy can be individual but sometimes is done in groups, depending on the issue and also conducted on an outpatient basis, or if needed, within a residential setting off-campus.

Residential settings can be beneficial for students as a place to be free of triggers and substances while recovering. Often there are academic tutors within the facility to help coordinate continuation of studies while receiving assistance.

Students can learn how to cope with substance cravings, reduce stress, and identify and manage triggers within their environment. Outpatient rehab is another Treatment for Substance Use Disorders Among College Students. It can provide support and withdrawal from substances typically without interfering with studies or daily schedule.

Substances that do require a medical detox are alcohol, which can take up to a week to detox. Common withdrawal symptoms can range from fatigue, nausea, and vomiting [1]. Adderall is another substance that requires a medical detox. This substance can be very addictive and may show withdrawal signs of insomnia, fever. Another is Ecstasy which is highly addictive and can cause serious health damage.

Withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia and depression. Benzodiazepines, which included Valium and Xanax are extremely difficult to stop using and withdrawal symptoms can be deadly.Withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations and seizures [3]. Treatments for Substance Use Disorders Among College Students includes counseling, both in and outpatient basis that can help students learn how to cope with drug cravings and stress both at home and on college campus.

Substance Abuse Issues Among Students

College LibraryAccording to Columbia University study [4], almost half of full-time college students binge drink or abuse prescription drugs and almost 1/4th of these students meets the medical requirements of having a substance abuse or dependence issues. This is three times the rate of the general population [3, 4].

Substance abuse can be defined as a pattern of drug use leading to significant problems or distress and substance dependence can be defined as continued use of drugs or alcohol, even when significant problems to daily life, occupational and education, have developed [3].

Four out of five students report drinking at least occasionally during college, and 40% report binge drinking at least once within two weeks of taking a survey through the National Institutes of Health in 2009 [3]. Binge drinking, then can be defined as drinking heavily over a short period of time with the intention of becoming intoxicated, or consuming 5 or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women [4, 5]. According to the 2001 National Household Drug Abuse

Survey, people ages 18 to 25 have the highest prevalence of binge drinking, with a peak rate occurring at age 21 [3]. With substance abuse comes high risk behaviors such as unprotected sexual intercourse or assault. It is reported that 13% of college students have unprotected sex after 1 night of heavy drinking and 690,000 annually are sexually assaulted [3]. Driving under the influence of substances is also a high risk behavior. Annually 3.3 million students, aged 18-24 drive under the influence of alcohol [3].

College students are highly likely to be responsive and motivated to seek treatment over non-college students for substance abuse issues [4]. Increased motivation for University students is that they may fear having to leave school, make schedule changes, or failing in their major or grades. Most Universities provide students with academic leaves upon request and financial aid may be able to be put on hold until the student returns to school.

Some Universities have set up special programs for students who have completed rehab and according to the New york Times Rutgers University began what is believed to be the first post-rehab residential life program for students in 1988 [4]. Since 2012 there were 31 Rutgers students living in recovery dorms that are drug free and pro-recovery. Students in these dorms are required to attend AA or NA meetings at least 2-3 times per week, attend weekly therapy appointments and participate in monthly house meetings. Currently more than 20 Universities nationally have recovery dorms.

Understanding Signs of Substance Abuse

Signs of a substance addiction can be increased substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms can include rapid mood swings, changing in sleep or eating habits. Behavioral changes such as stealing, lying, or isolating from friends, and potential weight loss.

There are many treatment options for students suffering from addiction, including detox, inpatient treatment for medical withdrawal or outpatient withdrawal and therapy, and pharmaceutical treatments such as naltrexone which is an oral medication that can be effective for alcohol dependence [5]. Holistic treatments such as yoga, massage therapy or meditation, The first step is recognizing when there is a problem and then taking the actions necessary for recovery. [3]

According to the USA Today survey mentioned above, it was recommended that Universities implement support systems and communication between departments to be able to properly refer students to appropriate help and counseling.

In College And Drug Addicted Library - Addiction HopeEven though this survey has the following recommendations, it is recommended to follow your school’s policies and procedures. Recommended steps if someone is needing substance use assistance is to contact a staff or member of administration, such as the health and counseling office, or after hours emergency number for the Institution.

Contact the residence hall advisor or residence hall director for help. They can help get the addict to the correct resources and help in contacting family if need be. Students helping a friend or who need help themselves can make an appointment with the College counselor for further assessment and referral if need be [3, 5]. Rehab can be compatible with college. Research shows that undertreated substance abuse can undermine the goal of obtaining a University degree [5].

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

What resources are available on your college campus? How did you learn about the resources available to you?

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS, is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS) who works with individuals and families in the area of eating disorders. Mrs. Lyons works in the metropolitan St. Louis area and has been practicing in the field for 11 years. Libby is also trained in Family Based Therapy (FBT) to work with children-young adults to treat eating disorders. Mrs. Lyons has prior experience working with the United States Air Force, Saint Louis University, Operating Officer of a Private Practice, and currently works with both Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute within their Eating Disorders Program and Fontbonne University



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 23, 2016
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.