Alcohol was found to be the number-one culprit for students seeking treatment for substance abuse.
According to researchers at the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, college students are more likely to suffer from alcohol-related substance abuse than from any other drug use. The study analyzed data from people between the ages of 18 and 24 who sought substance abuse treatment in 2009.
Forty seven percent of college students who seek substance abuse treatment suffer from alcohol-related problems, compared to 31 percent of college-aged adults who do not attend college.
The study also revealed that marijuana abuse came in second behind alcohol, with 31 percent of all cases involving college students. The number was 30 percent for non-students.
Seven percent of students and 16 percent of non-students sought treatment for heroin.
At Penn, the majority of students in need of substance abuse counseling struggle with different degrees of alcohol abuse, according to Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives director Julie Lyzinski. She added that this number has been steadily increasing since 2005.
However, the severity and types of alcohol problems students report has remained steady at Penn. “We see a wide variety of issues and concerns,” Lyzinski wrote in an email. “Some students want to talk through simple steps to reduce negative consequences while others are considering taking a bigger step due to their level of use and subsequent negative experiences.”
Lyzinski notes that most students who don’t seek are not usually scared or embarrassed; they are just unaware they have a problem.
“Unfortunately, there are pockets on every college campus, including Penn’s, where some higher risk behaviors may be normalized,” Lyzinski added. “This normalization tends to be a barrier to student awareness and, therefore, will likely stand in the way of students coming forward for help.”
An official from SAMHSA, Pamela Hyde, said in a Reuters article that the study’s results show the “pervasive and potentially devastating role that alcohol plays on far too many college campuses.”
College senior Kelly Higgins believes there is a prominent drinking culture at Penn, but doesn’t think many students suffer from dependency.
“It’s an atypical college campus in that there’s not as much drinking as at state schools,” she said. But on weekends a lot of students do drink, she added. “I think someone would be able to point [students in need of alcohol counseling] in the right direction,” she said, whether that person is a friend or another member of the student’s social network.
Lyzinski believes the increase in the number of students coming for help is due to the office’s increased visibility on campus. “Students know that we are a safe, non-judgmental resource for them to come and talk about alcohol and/or other drug related issues on campus,” she wrote. This “helps obtain a level of comfort in seeking our services.”