Underage drinking and drug use are continuing problems among college students. The challenge and stress of the college years make drugs and alcohol an avenue of relief for students. There are problems that come with using alcohol or drugs – consequences that, for some, could last a lifetime.
David Lee, former addict, certified drug addiction counselor and founder of Intervention Services Inc., based out of Illinois, says that drug addiction isn’t always about the drugs. Many are addicted to avoiding uncomfortable and stressful situations. Drugs are a tool for that avoidance.
Where families are concerned, an addict can divert the blame or use guilt to push off the uncomfortable conversations.
“I would make one little change — I wouldn’t use for a day … all they [my family] wanted, more than anything was to believe that I was heading in the right direction,” says Lee. “My family didn’t have a chance with a guy like me.”
Families are too afraid, or have such hope, that they don’t do what it takes to really help.
Lee says, “My family was stuck between hope and fear … because they love me.”
Intervention is a well-known and widely-used method of dealing with addiction.
An intervention is when family and friends agree to change the dynamic of a relationship in order to get an addict to willingly go into a program under the guidance of a professional. According to the numbers, it is easier to get an angry, defiant addict to go to rehab through intervention than to convince a worried family to agree to let councilors put one together, according to Lee.
Many councilors, like David Lee, are experts in their fields. Not just because they’ve gone to school, but through personal experiences.
“I’m a recovering alcoholic who teaches people how to drink,” says Randy Haveson, nationally-known alcohol and drug abuse counselor, speaker, trainer and author. Haveson has been in recovery for 31 years and in the treatment field for 29 of those years. “I tell people that I have a Master’s in counseling and a PhD in experience,” says Haveson.
Haveson was kicked out of San Diego University for alcohol and cocaine use. He cleaned up and later returned with a quest to help others overcome their addictions.
Haveson says that the biggest thing he wants people to do is to pause and think BEFORE they go out. To do this, college students especially, need to ask themselves questions before going out. Who will you be going out with? Come back with those same people. Where will you be going? Stick to the plan and go to that place only. People often move the party to another place and that ends up being where trouble is. He also says to ask, “Why am I drinking?” If the answer isn’t really a good one, chances are that person shouldn’t drink.
There is no single method that is considered “the best” in terms of overcoming alcohol and drug use.
“I’m a fan of whatever works to get people on the right path,” says Haveson. He has done some individual counseling, but mostly works with groups and teaching through speaking engagements.
Haveson says, “Studies show that the later in life a person starts to drink alcohol, the less likely they are to have a problem with it.” He adds that there are exceptions, as with family drinking conditions or life events which may establish a later issue. Drinking early in life, like before turning the legal age of 21, can be a factor in alcohol abuse later on.
Is there really such a thing as drinking responsibly?
According to Haveson, there is not. “If you ask five different people to define ‘responsibly’, you will get five different definitions,” He says. “I prefer to teach people how to make low-risk choices.”
His book, Party with a Plan, is geared toward the individual college student and teaching him/her to make those choices. There is also a section for parents in helping their teen, and it can be adapted easily for teachers and professors to use in classes on the subject.
The plan is as easy as 0-1-2-3. There are guidelines, such as if a person is under 21 years of age as well as many others, where the choice is zero drinks. In other cases, a person should drink no more than one drink an hour, no more than twice per week and no more than three drinks in a 24-hour period.
Drug and alcohol use isn’t just in television and movies, it exists on college campuses, like Tyler Junior College.
Lee Parker, former TJC student and RA at Ornelas, recalls times when students would put a towel at the base of the bathroom door to avoid having the smell of marijuana getting out. “The cops had been called out, but I ‘m not sure what came of it,” says Lee. “I’d seen [beer] bottles and cans in dorm rooms and hidden in crevices in the dorm several times.”
“Calls like that [involving drugs] are, I don’t want to say rare, but infrequent,” says Chief of Police at TJC, Randy Melton.
It’s not “one size fits all,” according to Chief Melton, concerning punishment for a student with possession of drugs on campus. It’s handled based on what and how much of the drug is found in the student’s possession. In any case, the student code of conduct, sections 10 and 11, is clear that possession, use and/or manufacturing of alcohol or drugs may result in suspension from the college for a year or more. There is, of course, also the possibility of action through the municipal courts.
Most of what gets reported to the security office, in cases of drinking alcohol on campus, is after the fact, such as three separate reports of empty beer bottles or cans recently found in the women’s restroom at the new Rogers Nursing Center. The security office is, of course, following up, but this could be an indication of an alcohol problem here at TJC.
Aside from the consequences of school suspension or the obvious fines or jail time which might occur from the use or possession drugs and alcohol by underage people, there are worse things that could make such behavior unthinkable.
In Austin, Texas last year, 23 year old Rashad Owens fled a sobriety check point, sped through several city blocks and ran over multiple people, some of which were in line outside of a night club. Two were killed instantly, while two others died later of injuries. Their ages ranged from 18 to 35. Rashad is facing 26 different charges, including capital murder, for which he could receive the death penalty.
During this year’s homecoming at Delaware State University, a drunken driver plowed through the crowd, injuring seven people. Prior to this incident, also this year, 25-year-old Acadia Chambers drove drunk through a crowd of spectators, killing four people, including a 2-year-old boy.
In 2001, there were a reported 1,700 college-student alcohol related deaths, and 2.8 million DWI’s involving college students. It is estimated that each year, more than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
The consequences of drug and/or alcohol abuse in college students can be more than just suspension or a fine, they can be the end of life for some. For others, they can be the loss of loved ones or a life of guilt and nightmares.
For everyone, there is help available. At TJC, that help comes in many forms.
“The Behavioral Intervention Team is a faculty and staff driven committee established to maintain a secure learning and working environment. The committee consists of members from counseling services, judicial affairs, Campus Police, housing as well as other offices and staff members. The team’s main goal is to discuss students who are showing signs that they are having a difficult time adjusting to higher education and the social life surrounding college. Students may be referred by faculty, staff, or Campus Police. These meetings are non-disciplinary and are intended to offer support and connect students with resources on and off campus that can help them become healthier and more productive members of the community,” according to the TJC employee handbook.
The BIT is headed by Dr. Lisa Harper, head of Student Support Services.
Harper said that BIT is currently in a great transition phase. Harper and other committee plans to attended a conference hosted by the National Behavior Intervention Team, or NaBIt, in November to take on procedures and standards that have been successful at other colleges.
The TJC student handbook has a list of the regulations regarding the possession of drugs and alcohol, but there is no mention of this team, except in the Employee handbook.
Drinking and alcohol abuse for people under the age of 21 is a problem throughout the country, including, and in some cases, especially on college campuses. Students who have, or know someone who has, a problem with alcohol or drugs do have options.
A student can request counseling on campus by calling Counselor and Learning Specialist, Tracy Williams at 903-510-2041 or using the online appointment request form at www.tjc.edu/counselingappointment.
Tracy provides basic counseling assistance and can refer students into the community for various types of alcohol/drug abuse or addiction issues.
Another source of help is the national hotline through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
For more info visit: http://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. The book, Party with a Plan, is available for digital download now on Amazon.com or partywithaplan.com and will be available in print on Nov. 6. For more information from David Lee about interventions, visit www.interventionservicesinc.com.