We recently covered Missouri’s problem with opioid-related overdose deaths, as well as the degree to which St. Louis, in particular, is impacted. While drug addiction is an equal opportunity affliction that can strike anyone, new data from Missouri’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) highlights one demographic where illicit drug use is not only rampant but on the rise: college students. Here’s a closer look at the findings.
Illicit drug abuse among surveyed college students has risen unilaterally across all measures, according to the DHM. Specifically, while 22.2 percent of college students said they’d used marijuana in the past year in 2007, that number rose to 30.1 percent a decade later in 2017. The same applied to cocaine use (from 4 percent to five percent); amphetamine use (from 1.9 percent to 4.4 percent); inhalant use (from .7 percent to 2.1 percent), and “club drug” use (2.4 percent to 3.5 percent.)
Perhaps even more alarmingly, in the case of drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, and inhalants, use among college students dropped off around the midway point only to spike even higher in the subsequent years.
The Missouri Assessment of College Health Behaviors revealed several bright spots amidst the data, including declines in alcohol use, binge drinking, tobacco use, and cigarette use between 2009 and 2017. It follows that fewer students report experiencing related consequences, such as drinking and driving, missing class, or engaging in risky sexual behavior.
Still, just because the trend is positive doesn’t mean the numbers themselves are. Consider that 17 percent of all students have driven after consuming alcohol, 9.9 percent have been hurt or injured from alcohol use, and 5.3 percent have been taken advantage of sexually while under the influence of alcohol.
Lastly, while those trends speak specifically to college students, “Monitoring the Future,” a national survey on drug use, reveals that substance use is significantly higher among college-age adults who aren’t in college than among their college-going peers.
Reversing the Trend
All of this begs the question, what can be done to reverse the trend? Education is a big part of it. Proposes the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Although college affords young people numerous new experiences, neither substance use initiation nor substance abuse are universal college experiences. Providing college students with credible and accurate information about the harm associated with substance use is crucial to prevention.”
Due to high Missouri drug trends among college-age students, the state has stepped up its efforts. Specifically, it’s introduced a program called Partners in Prevention (PIP), a higher education substance abuse consortium dedicated to creating healthy and safe college students. Comprising 21 public and private college and university campuses statewide, it seeks to prevent high-risk and underage drinking among college students while also addressing related health behaviors.
One last thing to keep in mind is that co-occurring behavioral disorders are also common in college-age students, with many college students who suffer from drug or alcohol addictions also engaging in behavioral addictions, such as eating disorders and sex and love addictions, according to data published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. The takeaway? Finding a treatment center that takes a holistic approach can be the key to lasting recovery.
Alexandre B. Laudet, Ph.D., who heads up the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery at the National Development and Research Institutes in New York, told Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “Addiction treatment needs to address the whole person. If you quit drinking but start compulsive eating, shopping or sex, you are still not functioning at a healthy level. Clinicians and researchers tend to look at drugs and alcohol separately, but if a person in recovery solves one problem and ignores the others, they do so at their own risk. We need to start asking questions about behavioral addictions, and designing programs that help people deal with different addictions in an integrated way.”
Enter Harris House. Providing substance abuse and addiction treatment for 50 years in St. Louis, its programs look beyond addiction to its causes and other factors which might otherwise be an impediment to recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our programs for college-age substance abusers.