It is now November, so first year university students in the UK will have started to settle into their new life. The likelihood is that a high proportion of these people will have experienced at least a few nights of excessive alcohol intake and most of them will have been offered some form of illegal drug. There does seem to be a very strong link between student culture and substance abuse – a link that appears to be getting stronger.
Why Is There Such A Strong Link Between Student Life And Substance Abuse?
It would be easy to blame the rise of substance abuse on college campuses on the drug culture of the late sixties – a time when even eminent professors like Timothy Leary were recommending that their students ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’. There is no doubt that it was during this period of history that drug use on campus gained far more attention in the media, but it would be unfair to fully blame the flower power era for the situation we are currently in. The reality is that many aspects of student life encourage this form of behaviour.
When young adults enter a university programme, they will often be leaving home for the very first time. They suddenly have all this freedom, so it is understandable that they want to explore new possibilities in their life. By going to university, the individual will be surrounded by lots of people who are going through the exact same thing. It therefore seems almost inevitable that as part of this exploration many will try alcohol and drugs.
The University ‘Atmosphere’
The whole atmosphere at university is focused on learning new things and experimenting. Many individuals would see trying alcohol or drugs as part of this general attitude of experimentation. This is especially the case with substances like LSD, which allow people to experience different levels of consciousness. If the person only experiments with these drugs a few times, and no harm comes to them, they may feel that it has been a positive experience.
University can be very stressful. Even those students who did well in school can suddenly find themselves struggling; they go from being a large fish in a small pond to a small fish in a large pond. It can be tempting for students dealing with a great deal of stress to turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort. In the beginning it may even feel like it is helping them to cope; by the time they realise this behaviour is having serious negative consequences, they might already be hooked.
There can be a great deal of pressure on students at university to drink heavily and to experiment with drugs. It can be hard to say no and those who do can be made to feel as if they are missing an important aspect of the whole student experience.
The Reality of Student Culture and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is encouraged in universities across the UK, and it is unlikely that this will change any time soon. The good news is that for the majority of students this is just a part of growing up. They sometimes drink heavily while at college, and they may experiment a few times with drugs. These individuals somehow manage to still get the work they need done to pass their course, and once they enter the world of employment, they are able to walk away from substance abuse.
Other students begin to seriously struggle due to alcohol or drug use at university. It causes them to perform badly on their course, and it may even mean that they end up dropping out of university or college completely. These students are addicted by the time they leave, which could have serious consequences for their future.