When your child has gone off to college, they begin to navigate their own way through the world. Many kids will experiment with drugs and alcohol. This is fairly normal but it can also go too far. There are many different drugs of abuse in college that are highly addictive. Additionally, there’s a lot of stress in university and college. Kids might feel pressured to abuse drugs among their peers. They may use substances to let off steam from a heavy workload.
Some kids will come home from school holidays or breaks already forming an addiction. Once they’re back in the home, you can help them if you know what to look for. You also have to know how to address the situation so it can be an open conversation. You may have to get help to get them sober. You may have to suggest a rehab program where they get professional help. When your kids are home from college, this is a great opportunity to check in and make sure everything is going well for them.
The Opioid Epidemic Affecting Young Adults
The US is, unfortunately, the top consumer when it comes to opioids. Every year, thousands of people will die from opioid abuse. The figures show that the number of deaths has increased by 30% in the past year. The US gets 30 times more opioid pain relief medication that is actually needed. You have to wonder where the other pain medications are ending up. Many people that don’t have the pain to manage will abuse these drugs, this includes your kids.
Opioid addiction in the US has affected everyone, this includes young adults. Opioid painkillers are meant to help patients with pain. They are only meant to be used for a short period of time and should only be used when other painkillers don’t work. The prescriptions were largely mismanaged by doctors for years. This lead millions of people to become dependent. Teens and young adults will often take these drugs from you. They might sell them or abuse them. Abuse can quickly lead to addiction.
Why Would Young Adults Abuse Prescription Opioids?
They make you feel euphoric which can contribute to psychological dependence. If you take higher doses than suggested, it can slow down breathing and your heart rate. This can ultimately lead to death. Kids will often mix opioids with alcohol which is also a central nervous depressant. Teens and young adults throw caution to the wind when it comes to these prescription drugs. It is heavily used in campus settings which is causing universities and colleges to take action.
Overdose Prevention On College Campuses
Colleges and universities have been equally affected by the opioid epidemic. Schools are concerned about keeping their students safe. Colleges have awareness and prevention programs. During freshman orientation, students will be told about the dangers of opioids and how to know if someone’s overdosing. They introduce students to Naloxone and explain to them how to use it in case of emergency.
Many schools across the US have made Naloxone available through both health services and the police on campus. There are some campuses that have Naloxone readily available in many areas around the college. They are marked with bright red stickers. There have been student fatalities from overdose both on campus and off.
Naloxone Training Necessary on School Campuses
Schools know that their students are taking prescription drugs from their parent’s cabinets. Many times though, kids don’t really even know what they’re taking. Previously, nurses would administer Naloxone which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Now, more of the staff is getting the training. It’s standard for a Naloxone kit to be in a school’s emergency kit. Staff will likely be doing drills, much like a shooting or earthquake drill.
Lifesaving Overdose Device at the University of Cincinnati
Some students at the University of Cincinnati have been working on a project to aid in the fight against opioids. With so many people overdosing, they created an emergency kit just for opioid overdose. It contains Naloxone, gloves, and a CPR mask. The group will distribute 100 boxes throughout 26 locations in Cincinnati. Naloxone is an emergency medication that quickly reversed the effects of opioids, even an overdose. It’s available all throughout the country.
Legally, Naloxone has to be tracked so the students are strategically placing them in places where they can be monitored. There is a wall mount that holds the box which has an LSD display attached. Once the box is triggered, it gives the user information about overdose and how to save someone quickly.
Teen Overdose Less Than Young Adults
Teen overdose has been declining, says a survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They were mostly unintentional overdoses that could be attributed to opioids. Namely, oxycodone or illicit drugs (heroin, fentanyl.) The rate of overdose deaths that involved heroin for teens was one in every 100,000 in 2015. They are using illicit substances less as well as prescription drugs.
The experts that are keeping track of opioids and their place in our society have found it’s adults who are most affected. The opioid addiction epidemic is much more prevalent in adults from 20-80 years old.
A Father’s Story About Son’s Overdose
A broken-hearted father found his son dead in their family home from an overdose. Craig Holladay, from Wake County, North Carolina recently had a conversation with his son about the things he was missing out on in life by abusing substances. They had a wonderful family getaway where his son was laughing and enjoying life. Layton was just 17 and fought hard against his addiction.
There was a mixture of drugs that Layton took, causing him to die sometime in the night. He had had an addiction for a year in total. Many people will live with addiction for decades. Addiction can hit quickly and destroy your life as in the case of Layton. It started with vaping, then he began abusing marijuana and eventually Xanax. Layton was tested the day before he overdosed and was positive for opiates and marijuana.
California University Student Overdose
At a party, nine students all overdosed from opioids at the same time. They were all students of the University of California in Santa Barbara. An emergency call went out that a young man had been found unconscious in the back seat of a car. The students that knew him said he’d been drinking alcohol with Oxycontin. On the same scene, there was a second young man who had stopped breathing completely. He was showing signs of overdose so they revived him with a dose of Naloxone nasal spray.
After that, seven more students were showing symptoms of an overdose at the same house party. They all took a blue pill according to the Sheriff’s Office. They were all taken to the hospital and all survived the incident. If your kids are taking part in drug use while at university, there is the reality that something awful could happen. Not just addiction but more serious consequences. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2016 over 19,000 people died from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. You may not be able to convince your college kid to stay completely sober throughout these years but maintaining communication is key. When they trust that you’re on their side, they’re more likely to open up about what’s happening in school. This gives you the opportunity to instill your wisdom on the matter.
Drugs of Choice on Campus
Frank Greenagel teaches at the School of Social Work at the Center for Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University. He knows all about the indicating behaviors for drug and alcohol problems in your kids. He says the current drugs of choice for college kids are not generally illicit drugs. Alcohol is number one and marijuana comes in at a close second. This is believed to be due to the legalization as well as reduced stigma. The third most abused substance is Adderall. The fourth is opiates and any derivative.
Adderall helps students focus and is a drug of abuse on campuses everywhere. Adderall is used for ADHD, designed to help someone concentrate more while sleeping and eating less. It fills the need for many college students. It can keep you skinny, awake, and fully focused when it’s crunch time. Adderall is a stimulant and is highly addictive. It also comes with long-term psychological and physiological issues. Students will have a hard time thinking without it once they’re hooked.
The epidemic of opioids is largely in part because they’re so easy to get. Getting your wisdom teeth out will get you a subscription of strong painkillers. Any surgery or injury can get you potent, addiction drugs from your doctor. These drugs will sit in the family medicine cabinet and kids won’t hesitate to take them. To them, they’re harmless because they’re legal and in your home. They abuse the pills or sell them to other kids on campus. They are a Schedule II drug which means sharing or selling just one pill can get your arrested. You would be considered a Schedule II drug dealer.
Signs of Drug Problems
Throughout the holidays, college students will have stories to share with you about their experience. They might tell you about their grades and the interesting things they’ve learned socially and academically. If they’re not telling you anything, this might be an indication that they’re hiding something from you they know you won’t like.
Signs might include physical and mental changes that are highly noticeable. Maybe their weight has changed dramatically. If they haven’t mentioned anything about what they’re studying or details about their professors, it could be a sign they don’t care about the education aspect of college. If they talk as though they’re a teenager again where the school is fine but they’re not interested in much, this could be a sign.
When they shut down on you, this indicates they have a secret they’re protecting about their time in college. You may have to gently pry to get the information you need. Taking time out to figure out what’s been happening with your adult child can be the lifeline they need.
While at home, they’ll still be looking to maintain their addiction. They can include:
- Destructive behavior.
- They may be secretive about where they’re going.
- They are sleeping for long periods of time.
- They are irritated, aggressive, depressed, or anxious.
- If you address the issue, they become defensive.
- They have poor grades.
- They are withdrawn.
- They may steal valuables from the home.
Physical Symptoms of Addiction in College Students
Appearance wise, they may not practice usual hygiene practices. Their hair may be constantly messy and they smell of body odour. They aren’t taking care of themselves. Here are some of the other physical symptoms that could mean addiction:
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Overly small or large pupils.
- If they’re snorting drugs, they may get nosebleeds.
- Lack of coordination.
- They have bruises or scapes but won’t tell you what from.
Health-related signs of addiction:
- Slurred speech.
- Tremors or seizures.
Psychological Signs of Drug Addiction
Your kids are going to make some big changes when they go to college. This is normal and would happen even if they were sober throughout their time in college. It’s when the changes are all destructive and ruining your child’s life that it becomes a concern. This is a sign that something isn’t right.
Here are some of the psychological signs of addiction to look for:
- Unexplained personality changes.
- Mood swings. They might laugh one minute and get angry the next for no reason.
- They may go through periods of hyperactivity.
- They may become scared, paranoid, or withdrawn for no reason.
If your child is addicted to a drug, they may be high, coming down, or going through cravings. They are never really balanced. As their parent, you know them best so it would be easy to recognize this in them.
What to Do If Your Child Has an Addiction
It’s important to approach your child in the right way if you suspect they have an addiction. They are an adult now so you can’t tell them what to do outright. Gaining their trust so they ask for help is important. Here are some of the steps you can take to get to that place.
Understand that substance abuse is common for college-age students. They are going through an experimental phase in their life. Many of their peers at school are also drinking or taking drugs. It may be something they outgrow the party phase without losing out on their education. Some use of substances is going to be a very likely part of their college experience.
Try to Relate
If you can successfully relate to your child, things you say will come from an honest place that perhaps allow them to open up to you. Do you remember what it was like to be their age? Look back on this and determine how their behavior is similar to yours. When you were going through this phase, think of what you learned. Share that with your child. Think about who influenced you in a positive way back them. Then consider how you might influence your child in the same way. It’s important that you be the model for their healthy behaviors.
Safety Is the Standard
You likely know that your child is using substances. You might not be able to stop that once they go back to school. You can, however, talk to them about how to experiment with substances in a safer way. You might think your child will stay sober throughout the college years. Even if you think that’s true, they may change once they’re out of the house. Ask questions to see what they already know about abusing substances. You want to make sure they avoid harm while seeing what’s out there in the world. For example, telling them that many of the street drugs have the potential to be laced with fentanyl may prevent them from trying. This could save their life as many college students have overdosed due to fentanyl.
Here are some words of wisdom you can instill in your kids:
- Don’t leave your friends alone at a party. You’re safer in numbers. If you go to a party together, make it a pact to leave together.
- Don’t leave a drink unattended.
- Have a designated driver.
- If you were to experiment with drugs and alcohol, start with a small dose.
- Effects of drinking or doing drugs may be different depending on how you use it. Ingesting it will be different than smoking it.
- Let them know the drugs that have a higher potential for addiction.
- Let them know the signs of an overdose so they can help someone in need.
- Tell them the steps of what to do during an emergency that’s related to drugs or alcohol.
Your family is unique so boundaries may be different for everyone. This could be anything from not letting them drink or do drugs in your house. If you know they have a problem, you may want to go to something like the SMART Recovery Family & Friends meeting. As a parent, you can get a lot out of these meetings. They help you to handle issues that you didn’t know how to deal with. It gets the lines of communication open which is important on their road to getting sober. You might want to speak with an addiction counselor in your area.
You’ll have to let your child know what the boundaries are. Any rules you’ve decided on will need to be established. You have to let them know there are consequences too. This can all be done in a kind way. However, it’s not always easy with family dynamics to get through to your children. If it’s established that they have an addiction and you’re trying to help them, you may want to have a professional intervention staged on your behalf.
Let Them Know You Love Them
Any kind of talk you have with your child about their addiction should come from a place of love. Let them know you’re worried and that you care. You are there to help and not judge. You want to have a healthy relationship with your child. This helps them to know that if anything happens to them, they have support at home. If your child is having problems with substance abuse, this is especially important for them to know. You can’t control what they do any longer but you can let them know you’re always going to be there.
Opioid Addiction, Clean Out Your Cupboards of Meds
There are organizations today that will take your unused medications. This is because so many people have started their abuse of drugs with prescriptions left over in your medicine cabinet. The situation has gotten so severe that the US surgeon general said anyone who is at risk of overdose should carry naloxone it. If you’re using prescription medications, leave them in a secured spot that your kids can’t get access to.
Getting Help for Your Child
It’s important you recognize the signs and help your child to see the signs within themselves. You may want to attend a few Al-Anon meetings. This is for family members and friends of an addict. It gives you a gauge of the challenges that may arise during their addiction. Also, urge your child to go to AA or NA meetings where you live. Stay in contact with your child about what’s going on with them.
You may decide that addiction rehab is necessary. They get the tools to manage their addictions. It will start with detox which is the process of getting the substance out of the body. Afterward, there will be the process of going through the psychological reasons for addiction. During this time, they will go through therapy. It’s likely that your child is still under your medical insurance if they’re going to college. You can verify your insurance to find out what kind of coverage is available. The rehab program usually lasts for 28 days. If they’re going back to college the next semester, there are AA and NA meetings in their area which will help maintain their sobriety.
At Northpoint Recovery, we care about the success of your child’s recovery. We have the most up to date methods to help them get past addiction. Our modern and welcoming facility is an inpatient clinic so your child will stay in a residential setting for the 28 days of the program. This is helpful because they’re not exposed to the outside world while getting treatment. We also help bring families together with therapy. We know this is an important part of the recovery process. Call us today with any questions you have.