Drugs and Booze Escalating

Half of US college students binge drink or abuse drugs, according to a new study from Columbia's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. As reported on CNN.com:

"I think we have, by almost any standard, a serious public health problem on the college campuses. And it's deteriorating," Joseph Califano, who heads the center and served as U.S. health secretary from 1977 to 1979, said in a telephone interview.

. . .

"Basically the proportion of college students who drink and binge drink has stayed constant. But what's troubling is the tremendous increase in the intensity of their drinking and drug use and the excessiveness of it," Califano said.

. . .

"College presidents, deans and trustees have facilitated a college culture of alcohol and drug abuse that is linked to poor student academic performance, depression, anxiety, suicide, property damage, vandalism, fights and a host of medical problems," the report said.

While the cable news shows seem to be focusing on the upswing in abuse of prescription drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Ritalin, a greater proportion of substance abusers in college favor cocaine and heroin (8.2% of students). That's a sad state of affairs.

Here's an excerpt of a piece I wrote recently -- it was directed at the parents of college freshmen returning home for winter break:

More drinking goes on at college campuses than you could possibly imagine, and that new-found freedom can escalate very quickly into serious substance abuse problems. Thursday afternoon through Monday afternoon is one non-stop alcohol binge on many campuses, and if your kid seems to fall off the radar for half of every week, take action before their transcripts and their health suffer serious damage. If you think colleges are acting "in loco parentis," think again.

That may have sounded like an exaggeration to some parents, but this new study suggests otherwise. I've worked with a number of people trying to recover from the train wreck that their college years turned into as a result of their "partying" (sounds so innocuous). It's very hard to undo that damage, whether you're applying for jobs after college or hoping to go to grad school. I honestly don't know that students realize when that spiraling starts to happen, so it's especially important for professors, administrators, and parents to pay attention to warning signs. This is one area of college life where helicopter parenting can do a lot of good.