Like other colleges across the nation, Michigan Tech struggles with the issue of alcohol and other drug use among students. Alcohol use and abuse has been a problem for students since the founding of the first colleges and universities in America. Results from the highly publicized Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (2001) reveal that 44 percent of college students nationwide report binge drinking (a binge is defined as consuming five or more drinks for males and four or more drinks for females in one sitting).
The National Core Alcohol and Drug Survey (2006) administered at Michigan Tech revealed that 49 percent of the responding students indicated that they consumed five or more drinks in a single sitting. Alcohol was consumed three times per week or more by 29 percent of the responding students. Of the responding students, 37 percent indicated that they had used marijuana at least once in their lives, with 13 percent indicating that they had used marijuana in the last 30 days.
According to the Michigan Tech’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report (2010), 66 alcohol violations and nine drug-law violations were referred for disciplinary action in 2009. In recent years, students have shown an increase in the illegal use of prescription narcotic drugs such as Vicodin and hydrocodone and the illegal use of prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall as performance-enhancing “study drugs.”
While some students decrease alcohol and/or drug use after their first two to three years in college, others continue to binge drink or use drugs illegally and eventually develop a substance-abuse problem. Signs of problematic drinking or substance abuse that might be evidenced at the university level include
- a failure to fulfill major obligations at school and/or work, such as absences, tardiness, incomplete assignments, performing below potential;
- substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous, such as walking outside while improperly dressed during freezing weather or driving under the influence;
- substance-related legal problems, such as fighting, damaging property, date or acquaintance rape, or sexual harassment;
- continued substance use despite recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by the substance, such as damaging relationships with friends, significant others, and family members;
- continued use, despite repeated harmful consequences, such as being placed on academic probation, losing a part time job, being arrested, sustaining physical injuries, or having an accident.
If you become aware of a student with an alcohol or a substance-abuse problem:
- Treat the situation as serious, but withhold judgment and try to remain objective.
- Be aware that the problematic use of substances is not based on a logical thought process, so lecturing is not effective.
- Hold the person responsible for his or her behaviors and assignments.
- Be aware that denial is very powerful and includes conscious lying, unconscious lying, distortions, and, at times, delusions.
- Be aware that for a student who is addicted to a substance, cravings or hunger for the substance may increase with stress.
- Be aware that the more a student is exposed to treatment opportunities, the better chance there is that he or she will be motivated to change behavior.
- Refer the student to Counseling Services, 906-487-2538.
- Make light of drug and drinking stories or joke about them.
- Tell your personal stories of party days while in college.
- Drink or engage in drug use with students.
- Assume college drug and alcohol experimentation is harmless.