Substance Abuse

There has been an increase in mental illnesses on college campuses within the past decade and substance abuse is a large contributor.

Substance abuse is defined as the use of illicit drugs, alcohol and prescribed drugs that can be mood-altering, addictive and harmful to one’s health.

Fully 44 percent of college counseling-center clients have severe psychological problems today, a sharp increase from the 16 percent in 2000, according to a new national survey published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The report was called “The State of Mental Health on College Campuses: A Growing Crisis.”

According to the study, “percentages are probably even higher as students dealing with substance abuse and eating disorders are less likely to seek treatment at counseling centers than students dealing with depression and anxiety disorders.”

The most commonly abused drugs for college students are alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, and hallucinogens such as ecstasy, LSD, and Rohypnol (PSP), stimulants and sedatives. (NIDA)

The graph depicts the illicit drug use among young adults from the ages of 18 to 25 from 2002-2011
-Graph courtesy of AMHSA in a 2011 NSDUH survey

As defined on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a prescription drug abuse “is the intentional use of a medication without a prescription; in a way other than as prescribed; or for the experience or feeling it causes.”

In 2010, the NIDA announced that, “approximately 7.0 million persons were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken non-medically.”

Many factors contribute to substance abuse on university settings.

Common causes for substance abuse are: low self-esteem, depression, family history of substance abuse, being introduced to new un-familiar environments, peer pressure, stress with schoolwork, as well as a variety of additional causes.

On the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, Barbra J. Guthrie, PhD., a professor and associate dean for academic affairs at Yale University, addressed the issue with substance abuse.

Guthrie stated,  “The role of heath care professionals in addressing teen substance use and addiction is prevention, screening, diagnosing and treating or referring – just as they do for all other health conditions.”

Ralph Hingson, the Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) was also quoted on the Columbia University website.

“Injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States among those ages 1-44,” announced Hingson.

“Alcohol misuse is the greatest single contributor to those injuries, ” he said.

This graph shows substance dependance or abuse in persons aged 12 or older from 2002-2011
-Graph courtesy of AMHSA in a 2011 NSDUH survey

In a national survey on drug use and heath (NSDUH) published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) titled, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), indicates that in “2011, an estimated 20.6 million persons (8.0 percent of the population aged 12 or older) were classified with substance dependence or abuse.”

Within the study, “2.6 million were classified with dependence or abuse of both alcohol and illicit drugs, and 14.1 had dependence or abuse of alcohol but not illicit drugs.”

Substance Abuse can be treated through the use of Rehabilitation centers, in addition to Cognitive and Group therapy.

By Sarah Tagg