Guest post from Jamese Slade, NCCU Summer intern
Underage drinking and drug use may not be a big deal to most college students, but these behaviors can have effects that will last a lifetime.
At a two-day forum on college student drinking and drug use sponsored by the Center for Child and Family Policy, drug abuse researchers touched on the issues of not only alcohol use, but also marijuana, and prescription drug abuse.
University of Cincinnati psychologist Krista Lisdahl Medina presented studies on the emerging adult’s brain and how it is affected by drug and alcohol use. She said 40 percent of adults aged 18-25 binge drink, which has been shown to cause verbal memory loss affecting their ability to learn new words.
Marsha Bates from Rutgers University's Center for Alcohol Studies said that alcohol and marijuana effect emotional regulation, causing inappropriate reactions to emotional stimuli. And during a one-month study, students who smoked marijuana were found to have brains that appeared more immature, while thinking slower and having lower grades.
University of South Florida psychologist Mark Goldman connected substance abuse to college students being in a new environment and trying to relate to their peers.
“We are teaching kids from a very early age that alcohol will take us from being picked on to being a cool kid,” said Goldman. He used an example from the movie Dumbo, when the elephant got drunk and all the trainers were laughing.
Of students who have prescriptions, 65 percent misuse their prescription drugs, and 62 percent give their drugs away to others, according to Sean Esteban McCabe, a substance abuse researcher from the University of Michigan. He said 72% of undergraduates are able to get stimulants for free, and that 90 percent of prescription drugs obtained from peers are stimulants.
“College students have said, ‘it’s easier to get 500 pills than it is to get alcohol. I don’t even have to leave my dorm room,’” McCabe said.
Students use prescription drugs with a purpose. According to David Rabiner, from Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy, nine percent of students at Duke have used drugs that had been prescribed to someone else to concentrate better while studying, to study longer, to feel better or to get high. He said that 70 percent of Duke students believe the prescription drugs have positive or very positive effects on them.
“They really believe it works,” said Rabiner, however there has been no evidence to prove that prescription drugs have helped students academically.
All presenters agreed there is a tie between drug and alcohol abuse. “It’s not likely to find students misusing medications who are not engaged in alcohol and other drugs,” said Bates.
Rabiner said prevention efforts should educate students to deal with attention difficulties appropriately, including getting a professional evaluation.
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