College alcohol misuse

Addiction Treatment: Change

Misuse of alcohol in college is often considered a part of the college experience. Parents, professors, college administrators and teenagers ought to look at the science before enacting a wink and nod policy. I know that most parents, professors and administrators are realistic, liberal-minded and it’s unsophisticated to expect teenagers in college to stay away from alcohol, but facts are facts, and it helps if you’re armed with facts before making decisions that can have grave consequences.

I doubt that many, if hardly any,  students know how alcohol affects the brain. Many doctors go through years of medical training with only a quick review of addiction and alcohol misuse. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that the adolescent brain is not fully formed, especially in the areas dealing with emotion, judgment and impulse control. If you’ve parented teenagers, you know. If you’re interested, the link above presents a lot of information on how alcohol negatively affects the development of the adolescent brain.

There are also statistics to show how serious this problem can become. According to NIAAA, researchers estimate that around 1825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date-rape.

In treatment facilities, hospitals, jails and funeral homes, our society deals with the consequences of untreated addiction and unaddressed drug misuse. Comprehensive prevention efforts will stop many of these consequences from coming to fruition, but it will take a concerted and well-funded effort. The time for prevention efforts is when a person is young, before they start drinking alcohol, smoking pot, popping pills or snorting cocaine. If kids know only 25% as much about the effects of alcohol and other drugs as they do about music, they’ll likely make better choices. If kids learn at an early age that drinking alcohol is not expected, and that choosing to not drink or use other drugs is a valid, healthy choice, maybe they won’t feel so pressured in their teens. They can at least learn that teens are at very high risk because of their less than fully developed brain.