Chemical dependency counselor: Students use drugs because college can be an awkward time

Students turn to drug use for a multitude of reasons, but medical officials often warn it can cause lifelong health implications.

Dana Jo Field, a chemical dependency counselor at Fairview-University Medical Center, said that some students turn to drugs because college can be a very awkward time.

Field has worked with people with various addictions – from gambling to drug use – for more than 14 years.

“Eighteen- and 19-year-olds striving for self-identity have the tendency to use tobacco products, beer, coffee and other drugs because we can, and the parents aren’t there,” she said.

People do drugs because drugs have the ability to change their consciousness, mood and thinking process, she said.

“The biggest issue in college is peer pressure and the freedom of being out of the house, starting to find who they are,” Field said.

She said she’s met with many University students who like using amphetamines because they help students study by keeping them alert.

“But then they crash – sleep for days in a row,” she said. “I think it impacts their relationships because they’re so wired it overloads the central nervous system.”

But Field said well-adjusted people don’t need to depend on substances to make them feel better.

“It ends up being kind of a way to scapegoat life,” she said.

Field said that some people can be more prone to addiction because of genetics.

For those who want to stop using drugs, Field recommends users join therapy sessions and a 12-step support group.

“Although addiction is primary, it’s secondary to adjustment issues,” she said. “When people need to medicate themselves (with substances) they’ve got adjustment issues.”

Field said Fairview-University Medical Center offers many types of addiction programs, such as ones for gambling, eating disorders and mental health treatment.

Boynton Heath Service tracks student drug use in surveys.

But one won’t find a long list of questions regarding illegal drug use in them, because students do not form a huge drug culture on campus, said David Golden, director of public health and marketing at Boynton Health Service.

Golden said some students use illegal drugs, but he doesn’t know whether it’s a significant problem.

Boynton is not attempting publicity campaigns to counter campus drug use, he said.

A student-based group at Boynton, called Student Network for Abuse Prevention educates students about alcohol, drug and tobacco use for residence halls and student groups.

If students are using drugs and want help, Boynton has a chemical counselor. Golden said the health service usually refers students to outside treatment centers.