Peer Educators recommend setting realistic goals for recovery.
In an article dated March 15, 2007, USA Today reported "nearly half of America's 5.4 million full-time college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month." That article was based on a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Closer to home, a 2005 Texas Department of State Health Services survey of college students revealed 84 percent of college students had an alcoholic beverage at least once, 78 percent in the past year, and 66 percent within the past month. Binge drinking was admitted by nearly 30 percent of those surveyed. Alcohol was cited as the most widely used substance.
The use of illicit drugs was less common among Texas students than the use of alcohol with 23 percent reportedly using within the past year and 13 percent within the past month.
The perceived danger of a drug seems to affect the likelihood of its use. Students were less likely to use a drug they thought was dangerous.
As an example, among college students who perceived marijuana to be "very dangerous," only 7 percent reported using it in the past month. That number jumps to 52 percent among students who believed it is not dangerous at all.
Marijuana was the most widely used illicit drug.
Dr. Dawn McFadden, the campus Peer Educator adviser and a counselor, agreed with the finding on a drug's perceived level of danger in relation to its use. The Peer Educators, under McFadden, are a first-line support system for students reaching out for help in dealing with issues such as drug addiction. Although not licensed counselors, Peer Educators provide information to help someone recognize if they have a problem and make referrals to agencies that can help.
There are organizations, such as the Patrician Movement, that provide a variety of inpatient, as well as outpatient services. Numerous 12-step programs dealing with a list of addictions are also available throughout the city.
McFadden said it is difficult for people in this age group to see that they have a problem. One of the ways her group tries to combat that is through an alcohol awareness fair in the spring during which a student can look through a special pair of goggles that simulates intoxication. The purpose is to help a student understand, while being in a sober state, the effects of alcohol.
All awareness efforts and personal interventions aside, McFadden said it essentially comes down to the individual's ability to recognize their problem and to honestly seek help for it.
"When they have had enough," McFadden said. "When they hit what we call a 'rock bottom'" is when some people are going to seek help.
McFadden and the peer educators hope to catch a few people before they reach rock bottom. In 12-step programs, "rock bottom" is when people reach a point in their life that they perceive to be the lowest because of their addiction. For every person, rock bottom is different.
McFadden believes that people turn to drugs because people have "problems they don't know how to deal with." Because someone may not have an adequate support system in place they may look to escape through some sort of chemical or behavior, she said.
In addition, McFadden said certain cultures can perpetuate a stereotype that pressures the male to take on all of the responsibility and not share it. If they cannot handle it, peers may look upon them as weak or inadequate.
Paula Daggett, coordinator of the college health center, agrees with McFadden's assertion and appreciates having Peer Educators on campus.
Having both options to speak to medical personnel in the health center or a peer is a great thing, she said, because some people may not be comfortable speaking with medical personnel or vice versa.
Daggett said psychological support is important to someone wanting to escape from the grip of addiction, but sometimes a person may require medical intervention to cope with the physical consequences of withdrawal.
Daggett said once a chemical is introduced into the body, it becomes accustomed to it. The chemical's effect may be to relieve pain, induce sleep or cause a euphoric high, but the body begins to see it as a normal part of its balance.
When a person decides to stop taking the drug, the body can react badly. Depending on which body system the drug would affect, one may experience different symptoms, Daggett said.
Most drugs have an effect on the central nervous system, she said. As such, symptoms may include profuse sweating, mild tremors and heart palpitations.
The withdrawal experience is going to vary with the individual, she said, simply because people are different and, therefore, react differently to the drugs and the withdrawal from them.
Dr. Kathryn Miller, human services program coordinator, said alcohol detoxification can be dangerous depending on the underlying health of the individual involved. Heroin detoxification is another process known to be uncomfortable.
The discomfort of acute detoxification, however, should not be an excuse to put off recovery. Medications are available now so it is "no longer necessary to 'white-knuckle' it anymore," she said.
Cost of recovery is another excuse that is no longer a hurdle. Miller said there are low-cost treatment centers that are based on one's ability to pay. For those that have medical insurance, legislation requires certain benefits be made available to the employee, including substance abuse counseling and treatment.
Daggett emphasized the importance of a committed and thorough approach to one's recovery. Even if one seeks medical intervention to wean themselves off a drug, she said, one should not dismiss the importance of psychological support to go along with it.
That support, agrees McFadden, is even more important when one stumbles during recovery. Whether it comes from a licensed counselor or a peer, it's important that someone is there to provide encouragement.
McFadden cautioned addicts against building up unrealistic expectations of themselves in recovery, pointing out that most addictive behaviors have developed over time; sometimes years. But like a baby falling while learning to walk, McFadden said, "you get back up and you walk again."
To find a support group or to inquire about treatment options, contact the United Way help line at 2-1-1 or go to their Web site at www.unitedwaysatx.org.
To see the latest trend information on substance abuse for the state, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services Web site at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/sa/.
Addiction to any drug may include these general characteristics:
Feeling that you need the drug regularly and, in some cases, many times a day.
Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug.
Failing repeatedly in your attempts to stop using the drug.
Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing.
Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems.
Driving or doing other activities that place you and others at risk of physical harm when you're under the influence of the drug.
The particular signs and symptoms of drug use and dependence vary depending on the type of drug.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. www.mayoclinic.com
Author: Martin Herrera
Pubdate: Fri, 21 Nov 2008
Source: Ranger, The (TX Edu)
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