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Drug Use/Abuse

Along with the many academic decisions you have to make as a college student (what to study, when to take your classes, how much to party versus studying), there are also difficult decisions you need to make about the use or abuse of drugs (alcohol is discussed in another Self-Help topic). While alcohol can be potentially dangerous on its own, many illegal and legal drugs can contribute to major health problems, academic struggles, and general life dysfunction. We encourage you to review the following information and consider how drug use may impact your life.

What Is A Drug?

A drug is any substance that changes how the body works once it gets inside the body. Some examples of drugs are nicotine, cocaine, steroids, marijuana, inhalants, and caffeine. Different drugs have different effects on the body. Some drugs can cause you to hallucinate (i.e., see or hear things that other people do not). Others may speed up or slow down your system.

Why Do People Use Drugs?

People may use drugs for a number of reasons. Some take them out of curiosity to see what they feel like or because their friends are using them. Others take them to escape painful feelings and situations. Some use drugs because they are addicted and they cannot stop; the drug becomes more important than family, friends, or school. Still others use drugs because they believe in myths - that a drug can make someone more confident, get more work done, feel less sad, improve their sex life, and have more fun. The biggest myth is that occasional drug use is harmless.

What Effects Can Drugs Have On Me?

Depending on the frequency and type of use, drugs can have severe and long-lasting effects on the body. Some drugs will cause damage after just one use, while others will hurt the body and mind more slowly. Here are some examples of possible effects different drugs can have:

  • Nicotine - diminished sense of smell and taste, smoker's cough, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, cancer, frequent colds, and chronic bronchitis.
  • Cocaine and Crack - heart attacks, strokes, respiratory failure, seizures, and reduction of the body's ability to resist infection.
  • Steroids - liver tumors, high blood pressure, hair loss, severe acne, testicular shrinking, stunted growth, and an irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Marijuana - sleeplessness, reduced concentration, paranoia, hallucinations, intense anxiety, cancer, and increased risk of infertility.
  • Inhalants - severe mood swings, suffocation, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, liver, lung and kidney impairment, and brain damage.
  • Caffeine - sleeplessness, reduced concentration, intense anxiety, and restlessness.

One can become dependent on any drug, including those listed above.

How Can I Get Help?

Depending on the type of drug use, there are many different types of treatments available. For severe drug problems, there are detoxification and medication programs that require the patient to stay either in a hospital or treatment center. Also, there are programs that are administered at a clinic that the patient can attend daily.

Treatments for less severe problems include individual, family, or couple’s therapy. Also, there are many support groups available for drug users and their family members or loved ones. If you are a student at Drexel University, you can contact the Office of Alcohol, Other Drug, and Health Education at (215) 895-6072 for information about alcohol treatment and abuse prevention. You can also schedule an appointment with a counselor at the Counseling Center by calling (215) 895-1415. Other resources include:

Avoiding Drug Problems

  • Drug use and abuse is preventable.
  • Get educated. Know the facts. Once you do, you will realize that it is not worth endangering your career, your health, your relationships, and your future.
  • Avoid peer pressure. Think ahead about how to say "no."
  • Avoid situations where people will be drinking and using drugs. Get involved in non-drinking activities.
  • Confront your problem if you have one.
  • Get help for the underlying problems of family, relationships, anxiety or depression.
  • Educate others.

Expressing Concern about Drug Abuse

  • Approach your friend out of concern for their well-being.
  • Do NOT try to talk with your friend if he or she is under the influence of a substance.  Find the right time and place where there is privacy and all participants are clean and sober.
  • Being honest, direct, non-judgmental, and brief is the best overall approach to addressing concerns about drug use.
  • Clearly express to your friend that the reason for talking is due to your care and concern for him or her regarding their drug use, as well as their health, safety and success while at Drexel.
  • Your role is to simply help your friend “see what you see” regarding his/her use. Specifically describe the behaviors and consequences that you have witnessed and that are factual. Stick to observable, irrefutable facts. (Last Tuesday night you were high and missed your exam the next day...You also passed out three times and didn’t remember any of it the next day).
  • Use “I” statements to describe how these behaviors have affected you and/or others. (“I am frustrated with the disruptions when you get wasted and get out of control,” or “I am worried that you may not last in school since you are missing so much class”).
  • Be very careful not to use labels and assumptions, such as “you have a problem” or “you’re a pothead.” Any judgmental words and/or “tones” will defeat your purpose and will likely be received with strong resistance and denial (they sound blaming).
  • Suggest appropriate actions for support and assistance that are available on campus. An appointment can be made in person or by phone at the Counseling Center. Another option is to accompany the student to the Counseling Center, or to the Office of Alcohol, Other Drug, and Health Education. Your conversation may also serve as a beginning point for further contact about the issue, or even as a warning for additional action.
  • Expect some resistance, anger and denial when expressing concern about drug use.  Do not take the anger personally.  It is just a defense mechanism that the user is using to protect their way of life and/or the result of the person’s fear of change.
  • Anger and defensiveness does not mean that your appropriate expressions of concern are not being heard.  If there is no immediate result, the cumulative effect of similar messages over time may eventually lead the person to seek help/make changes.
  • Above all, you are strongly encouraged to seek support, assistance and consultation from the Counseling Center when considering approaching a student due to concerns about substance abuse.

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.