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College campuses see increase in substance abuse

The past several years have seen a disturbing rise in substance abuse issues on college campuses. These problems, ranging from binge drinking to extensive drug usage, have awakened the issue amongst administrations across the country probing the question: How do we prevent this issue from getting worse?

In 2007, USA Today published a story that reported on the increasing rate of both drugs and alcohol use on college campuses. The article reported that over half of America’s 5.4 million college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol at least once a month, indicating that the situation† has “seriously deteriorated” since previous studies in 1993. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University did a follow up on their 1993 findings and found some incredibly alarming changes.

For example, 22.9 percent of students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence ó a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences ó compared with 8.5 percent of all people 12 and older who are not in college institutions.

These statistics are supported by recent incidents that have popped up in the news, that not only are examples of reckless abuse of substance, but also dangerous. Last week, a Georgetown University freshmen dorm was evacuated after a suspected meth lab was found in one student’s room, according to the Huffington Post.

During the evacuation of the dorm, seven people were exposed to the noxious chemicals produced by the methamphetamine, resulting in hospitalizations. A Georgetown University spokesperson said that students remained evacuated while federal investigators conducted their search.

One factor that has largely contributed to the rise in substance abuse is the ever-expanding agents that are showing up on the market. According to a report by ABC News, a high-alcohol energy drink called “Four Loko” sent nine college students to the hospital earlier this month and sickened many more. The incident has turned into a national controversy because investigators originally gauged the severity of the incident so high that they thought date-rape drugs to be the culprit.

Four Loko, which has only recently emerged on college campuses, contains 12 percent alcohol, or the equivalent of six cans of beer. The incident, which occurred at an off-campus party at Central Washington University, left authorities dumbfounded after they amassed blood alcohol levels ranging from .12 to .35 percent.

As the drink has spread quickly throughout the nation as a means for getting intoxicated quickly for very little cost (the average cost of a 23-ounce can is only $2), it has been nicknamed “Liquid Cocaine.” Many colleges have already started to ban the drink on campuses as a precaution.

Although these stories may seem far off from Wooster’s removed campus, substance abuse still exists here. Many first-years enter campus having never been exposed to alcohol or drugs in high school and often times find themselves sick or ill due to the high accessibility to alcohol on campus. Underage drinking at Wooster and at other institutions is somewhat unavoidable as it is often seen as a large part of campus culture for some people, but the College has placed limits and sanctions, such as online alcohol classes and community service, in order to show the campus that that line cannot be pushed too far.

According to information on the College’s website from the Longbrake Student Wellness Center, “Wooster’s approach to the issue of alcohol and drug abuse is proactive rather than reactive; and it is both individual and environmental.”

Besides sanctions that can be given to students who abuse substances, Wooster is committed to working with students to educate them about the negative side effects that can result in their usage. Although the website also acknowledges that Wooster does not have an inherent substance abuse problem, it is still a relevant issue that has had many unfortunate incidents throughout the past decade.

With the rise in substance abuse becoming an increasingly more apparent issue in the media, administrations are brainstorming ways to crack down. Much like our approach here, education before consequences is proving to be the most effective method. If new ideas and resources are utilized effectively, incidents like the ones that occurred at Georgetown and Central Washington can hopefully be avoided in the future.

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