Over the past several years, the opioid epidemic in America has swollen to magnitudes large enough for the Department of Human and Health Services to classify it as a public health emergency. It’s estimated that in 2018, 10.3 million people misused prescribed opioids, 81,000 people used heroin for the first time, and over 130 people died each day from opioid-related drug overdoses (Department of Health and Human Services). If these statistics aren’t initially frightening enough, consider then, college students make up one of the largest groups of drug abusers nationwide. In fact, attending a full-time college program makes you twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those that don’t attend college (Addiction Center).
It’s not complicated to understand why college students make up such a large part of drug abusers. Substance use disorder is a disease that affects one’s brain and behavior leading to the inability to control one’s use of a legal or illegal substance. The lifestyle of a university student often can incite substance use, causing addiction. Stress due to a classes, internships, part-time work and social obligations can influence students to use drugs as a coping mechanism. Curiosity and peer pressure also surely play a part in college drug abuse considering college is a time of self-discovery and the building of new relationships. Stimulants, like Adderall, can be popular across college campuses because of their ability to keep the user awake while they complete assignments or study for exams. MDMA, or molly, is a popular party drug widely used by college students while partying. All of these are reasons one may begin using drugs, but let’s get real: as college students, the majority of drug use is simply recreational.
Either way, the challenges caused by drug use are detrimental to the health of our bodies, minds, and futures. Possession of illegal drugs can lead to jail time and fines. Even with more relaxed marijuana laws in Pennsylvania, a small amount of weed could still be enough to land you 30 days in jail. Drugs like Cocaine and MDMA could get you up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine for the first offense. In addition to the normal legal consequences of drug possession, college students can also have their student aid revoked. Any federal aid for college, can, and likely will, be rescinded, which leaves students and parents responsible for paying the tuition out-of-pocket. According to the BU Code of Conduct, possession, use, manufacturing, sale, or distribution of any illicit drug, or transfer of any prescription drug is in violation of the University Substance Policy, and is punishable by academic probation or even expulsion. Going beyond Bloomsburg, a record containing drug-related charges could destroy your chances of attending graduate school or landing a job in your field.
There’s another problem here worthy of mentioning- only about 10% of people with substance use disorder actually receive treatment. This percent may be even lower for college students due to the lack of support within the campus community, a more laid-back attitude of peers toward substance use, and the heightened consequences of substance use as a college student. The United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties and the DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network) Office at BU recognize this problem for students, and want to help.
United in Recovery is a program started by The United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties and The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way which works to improve treatment for opioid addiction by educating the community and employers, changing policies, and expanding access to treatment. The efforts of UiR are based on the work of three committees: the law and order committee, the education committee, and the treatment and recovery committee. Each committee provides a vital part of the services UiR offers including incorporating education, training, and treatment referral mechanisms into the law and order system, educating the community about opioids and their addictive nature, and improving access to treatment and supporting treatment centers, respectively. For more information about UiR, please visit their website http://cmcuw.org/united-in-recovery.
The Bloomsburg University DAWN office is a great resource for students struggling with addiction. The DAWN office specializes in helping students who have under-ages or drug charges on their criminal record. In addition, The DAWN office also provides counseling services to help students cope with substance use disorder and implement evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of dangerous drinking and drug use. Margarete Hahn, the director of the DAWN office, has put effort into implementing a collegiate recovery service, which would be a student-run support system for all students working through the process of recovery. The purpose of the program is to create a community and network of individuals all dealing with similar situations pertaining to substance use disorder, as well as providing as safe space to hangout and interact. This type of program is currently implemented at many colleges and universities throughout the United States. However, the service requires those struggling to step forward, which has been the main problem with this service at Bloomsburg University. If you are interesting in the collegiate recovery service, or any of the resources offered through the BU DAWN office, please visit their website or call (570)389-4980.
The recovery process is not easy, but you don’t need to go through it alone. Reach out to your support system, look for resources and treatment available to you, and remember that you are not alone. For additional resources, or to find a support group near you, visit www.na.org or www.aa.org.
The United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties is a non-profit organization, located in Bloomsburg. We look to lead, inspire, and mobilize individuals within the community to help provide solutions to essential health and human services issues in Columbia and Montour counties. For almost 60 years, United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties has provided various education, income, and health related resources to community members.