by Evan Nikas

Addiction can start anywhere, with anything. Some addictions can be harmless, but others can prove a problem to one’s health and well-being. On college campuses across the country, the beginning stages of addiction can surface, and with students becoming more and more comfortable with the presence of several substances, the concern is starting to become serious.

Whether a student is attending a four-year university or Cape Cod Community College, the chances that they run into substances, such as alcohol or marijuana, are high. Both are used recreationally, but one can lead to a higher chance of addiction.

“Marijuana and alcohol are the big ones for recreational use,” said Dr. Maura Weir, Coordinator for Recovery and Wellness at 4C’s. “Alcohol is the biggest one for addiction, and I think that’s because it’s more socially acceptable.”

A lot of reasons factor into why college students form a dependence on the use of these two substances, along with many others. The constant acceptance of these substances from a social standpoint forms a habit, which can then form the path towards a future addiction. But recreational use does not always lead to the consumption of these substances. Other factors, such as depression and stress, make young adults feel as if they can self-medicate with alcohol and other substances.

“A lot of the time they [students] do it for recreation, and then the habit turns into addiction,” said Weir. “The other part of it is they’re trying to self-medicate for other things that may be upsetting them in their life, and I think people misuse alcohol and drugs because there is something else going on. They do it to essentially numb the pain.”

“Sometimes conditions associated with increased risk for misuse are depression or anxiety, or conduct problems,” said Weir. “They also may have health problems, like accidents or injuries. There’s also a substantial behavior change when people are addicted, they have mood changes, or a drop in grade point average (GPA).”

Opioids are also not the main concern when it comes to potential addiction in young adults, more specifically those attending college classes. In fact, there’s been a trend that suggests opioid misuse in college students is on the decline.

“There’s been a significant five-year drop in both college and non-college individuals [with opioid misuse],” said Weir. “People think this [opioids] is the main one, but it’s not. Heroin is, because people are dying. But it is alcohol and marijuana that are still the number one misused.”

Although college students are not heavily, if at all, involved with opioids such as heroin, the use of other illicit drugs shows an increase. According to the National Survey Results on Drug Use, two in three (64%) of today’s young adults have tried an illicit drug, and more than one in three (36%) have tried an illicit drug other than marijuana. The survey also states that 28% of college students admit they have participated in some aspect of binge drinking [consuming five or more drinks in a row]. One in twenty college students also admit to having ten drinks in a row, and one in thirty-three report that they have had fifteen drinks on at least one occasion.

The statistics from this survey does not prove that college students are getting addicted at a higher rate, but they do prove that young adults are becoming more and more comfortable with trying illicit drugs. It also shows that alcohol and binge drinking are becoming accepted as they become normalized, leading in an increase of consumption, raising the risk for addiction.

But for those who do become addicted, their addiction does not have to define them. Colleges across the nation offer recovery programs to students dealing with different kinds of addiction, allowing for a foundation to a healthier, sober life to be built. And 4C’s is taking the beginning steps to help those in recovery.

“We are setting up a collegiate recovery program, and we joined the Association for Higher Education for Recovery,” said Weir. “We are right up there with the rest of the country on setting up this program. It gives people the opportunity who are in recovery, who want to get their education, to mix and match with other people on campus that are in recovery and make it a priority to finish school. It’s challenging because people don’t always want to tell people that they are in recovery, but once they become connected, they become really good support for each other.”

“Our first National Collegiate Recovery Day is going to be April 15th,” said Weir. “It’s the first one around the country, and we [Cape Cod Community College] are going to participate in it. Any students in recovery who want to participate, can absolutely come and help us.”

Addiction can start early, forming from a habit and eventually becoming a necessity to someone’s everyday life. 4C’s is taking the necessary steps forward to provide a helping hand to those suffering from addiction or recovering. The Collegiate Recovery Club offers drop-in hours on Mondays and Tuesdays from 1-1:45pm located in room 208 of the Grossman Commons. If you have any questions or trouble with addiction, contact Dr. Maura Weir.