I was motivated to write this article on substance abuse among college students, after my recent interaction with a distant cousin (in college) who has been in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for the past 4 months. It was personally heart wrenching to see this young boy, go through intense mental health treatment (including, Electro-convulsive therapy) that his family wanted, with the goal of wanting him to recover and realize, the path he chose was life threatening, scary and dangerous. His experience got me questioning, if one needs to be pushed to extremities of treatment and punishments to realize, that one’s body and life is precious? If so, why, and is there a way to help before it is too late?

Substance abuse in the past few years has become a growing problem in India and especially among adolescents. College students have begun to have easier access to drugs and adding to that, the high stress as a student appears to be the perfect recipe for alcohol and drug use. An article on dnaindia.com stated that there are 30% of students who are addicted to drugs in Bangalore as of July, 2012. Prior to that, in an article on rediff.com, dated August 2007, stated that, 23% of students were on drugs in Bangalore. This is a staggering increase of 7% in a matter of 5 years. Is it the responsibility of our government to better monitor and stop peddlers and illicit drug trafficking or is it the responsibility of the parents to have a better relationship with their children therefore, reducing drug and alcohol use? We can play the bystander and keep handing over our responsibilities to someone else but, we need to realize, that it is OUR problem and we all need to do our bit. 

The cause of the drug and alcohol abuse varies from peer pressure, familial problems, relationship problems and genetically being predisposed, to easy access to drugs. There is no doubt that the government can and should continue to be strict and more vigilant but, we need to address the other aspects as well because, if one wants to consume alcohol or drugs, he/she will find a way to do so. The only way of reducing the ever-increasing alcohol and drug abuse problem is by educating oneself of the signs and helping each other. Awareness and knowledge of the long lasting effects of alcohol and drugs and the right help at the right time has always proved to help effectively and a tremendous amount.

Therefore, let us start by not turning a blind eye to people around us who might be struggling with the illness. It is important to remember, that the addicts and/or abusers have a deeper core issue, might not be aware that they have a problem and might even feel invincible. However, it is our responsibility as people who care and love them to lend a helping hand and take them for the appropriate treatment before it is too late, even if it means playing the “bad guy” for a brief period.

Some signs to look for are:

1) Recurrent substance use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations (work, college, school, family etc)

2) Recurrent substance use even in situations where it is hazardous (drinking and driving)

3) Increased tolerance to the substance therefore, needing to consume increased amounts

4) Inability to function without the consumption of the substance

5) Continued and frequent use of substance, despite knowledge of its persistent and recurrent negative consequences.