The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Half of college drug treatment is alcohol-related, study says

While it’s long been conventional wisdom that college students drink a lot of alcohol, newly released government data shed some new light on the issue.

The study, published last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported 46.6 percent of college students admitted for treatment of substance abuse cited alcohol as their primary substance abused in 2009. Non-students aged 18-24 admitted for substance abuse, on the other hand, were less likely to be treated mainly for alcohol, at 30.6 percent. In total, 12,000 students were surveyed after they had been admitted to a substance abuse treatment program.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration was established in 1992 by Congress and works to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

The survey also found that marijuana was the number one illegal drug that students sought treatment for, with 30.9 percent of student admissions to treatment citing marijuana as their primary substance abuse. Other common primary substances of abuse were heroin (7.2 percent), other opiates (8.3 percent), cocaine (1.9 percent) and methamphetamine (1.0 percent).

Additionally, one in four full-time college students experienced alcohol abuse or dependence within the last year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released in 2003.

The last National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Condition, released in 2006, reported that 19 percent of college students ages 18-24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Only 5 percent of these students got treatment for alcohol problems, however, and 3 percent thought they should seek help but did not.

Sara Johnson, coordinator of alcohol programs at Marquette, said there are a number of reasons why there is a higher percentage of college students seeking treatment for alcohol abuse.

“The most significant factor is that alcohol is by far the most heavily abused substance within the college setting than any other drug,” Johnson said.

She said Marquette does not report the number of students seeking services through the counseling center for student confidentiality reasons.

“The number of students engaging in high-risk drinking behaviors (at Marquette) far surpasses the number of students using other drugs,” Johnson said.

Michael Zebrowski, director of the counseling center, said when first going to the counseling center, 8.6 percent of clients indicate that alcohol or drugs are a current issue for them. He said at the end of counseling, counselors indicated 11.4 percent of students focused on alcohol abuse issues and 4.2 percent focused on drug abuse.

The Counseling Center offers assessment of substance abuse problems and then either short-term treatment or a referral for specialized counseling.

“Drinking becomes problematic when it starts to interfere with normal life events or when someone feels unable to moderate it,” Zebrowski said.

“Many students who are abusing alcohol or drugs have some difficulty seeing it as a problem,” he said. “This is likely due to the denial that is a component of substance abuse and to what is called the ‘college effect’ for alcohol, which means that students increase their alcohol use in college because cultural and environmental factors encourage it.”

Keisha Harper, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she sees the ‘college effect’ on campus.

“People don’t think that they have a drinking problem in college, they think it’s normal,” Harper said.

Harper said she sees alcohol as a larger problem on campus than drugs.

“Everyone binge drinks,” she said.

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