College, Drugs and Alcohol: Realities to Confront in Making the College Decision

Success in college requires intense focus and attention to detail – lots of details. And while it’s true that many change majors and career focus during their time in school, it is also true that those who do so successfully have their focus aligned at another, even more significant level. That level is one of very personal self-commitment to the goal of preparation for the future.

The landscape is littered with those who went to college without a commitment to a specific career, but more importantly failed to have the deeper commitment to personal preparation regardless of their career.

Some would say that those with that deeper level of commitment just have it and that it can’t be developed. It’s just there or it isn’t. That would generally equate it to being a talent. Regardless of the particulars on that point, the following is true and statistics and observations support it.

Alcohol and drug dependence, misuse or addiction is usually a fatal blow to the quest for college excellence – and graduation for that matter. If you are confronting the reality of using alcohol and drugs consistently during high school, you need to be very careful about your college decisions. In fact, you need to find someone you can confide in regarding your present and your future.

The fear of confronting misuse and possible addiction is daunting until you consider your potential future if you don’t. In my work, I have met hundreds of people whose lives were happily liberated by honestly confronting their use and getting help. From there, they were able to establish and maintain a course for their future.

Did they have to make mid-course corrections? They sure did. But in many cases, they didn’t have their boat sink. It stayed afloat and they claimed victory for their future.

At many colleges and universities, twenty-five percent (25%) of college freshmen leave school during their first year due to academic performance deficiencies where drugs and alcohol played a major role, if not being the sole reason.

The vast majority of those students were not just using one drug or favoring one type of alcohol. They used and abused multiple drugs at once. Emergency rooms near college campuses tell the same stories every year of student who die and come close to dying because of alcohol poisoning and comorbid drug use.

The average age for first use of alcohol in the United States is fourteen years of age. We know that youth drinkers drink approximately 70% of their alcohol in one event after they are already legally drunk.

Fortunately, the majority of youth in America don’t drink or use illegal or illicit drugs, but unfortunately the minority that does is very large. If growing high school drop-out rates associated with alcohol and drug use are a problem, it is not a huge leap to assume that the same is true of college students.

And as bad as this is on the surface, you begin to see the long-term problem of broken lives and personal destruction due to the impact of these substances on the brain early on. A young person’s brain does not fully mature physically until age twenty-five.

Substance abuse causes brain shrinkage, impaired development, impaired judgment, impaired memory, impaired motor skills and many other challenging issues that make focusing on success in college virtually impossible. The front lobe or cortex of the brain and the cerebellum (which controls coordination) are especially susceptible to the impact of alcohol. Alcohol use is out-of-control on most college campuses, and those with limited or no control over the temptation to drink and abuse drugs have the decked stacked against them.

Before you get serious about college, get serious about getting your brain ready. The consequences of lost tuition, a criminal record, a failed college transcript, the loss of your time and the possible harm you could bring to others is worth paying attention to.