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As Students Return Home from College, Psychological and Addiction Problems May Emerge

Parents Can Help Students Dealing with Stress, Relationships, Life Change and Drugs

College students across the country are returning home after a year of studies, new friends and new responsibilities. But they may come home saddled with more than simply an armload of laundry.

Some parents may be surprised by the young adult walking through their doors this spring. College students who have been away from home and living on their own may have been living a completely different life for the past several months. Poor influences, turbulent relationships, stress and substance abuse may all play a part.

Parents are joyful to welcome their children home from college, but that joy may fade when they realize the young adults they love are struggling with depression, anxiety or substance abuse. Being away at college brings many new challenges, some positive and some negative. When spread thin by demands and stressors, young people may exchange thoughtful decision-making for impulsive or knee-jerk decision-making. Things like skipping sleep or a meal to pull an all-nighter for the 8 a.m. test may seem harmless, but these impulsive or short-sighted decisions will pile up, and for many, anxiety, depression, isolation, and self-doubt will follow. To cope, many will turn to caffeine, sex, alcohol, marijuana, a roommate’s Ritalin, or even harder drugs.

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report, “Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings,” which presented alarming facts about drug and alcohol use in America, especially among 18- to 25-year-olds.

For example, in 2014, 22% of college-aged students (18 to 25) used illicit drugs such as marijuana/hashish, cocaine and crack, heroin, hallucinogens, or inhalants, as 4.4% abused prescription drugs, including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives.

Perhaps most frightening is the fact 37.7% of young adults aged 18 to 25 engaged in binge drinking, or consuming more than five drinks in one sitting at least one day in the past month. The survey also found that than an estimated 9.3 million were underage (aged 12-20) drinkers in 2014, which included 5.9 million binge drinkers and 1.7 million heavy drinkers.

It’s important for parents to be aware and ask questions. Although the behaviors are concerning, parents shouldn’t be quick to judge the behaviors. Instead, show your college-aged children you love them, are interested in the pressures they are dealing with, and want to help them deal with those pressures through healthy and God honoring decisions so their college experience can be one of growth, fulfillment, enjoyment and an awesome stepping stone in their life’s journey.

The report also states 18-25 year olds have a 20% have a serious mental illness, most often depression or anxiety disorder, but that chance of having a serious mental illness is 2-3 times more when the individual has a substance use issue.

Parents can help their college-aged children by suggesting faith-based counseling or treatment.

The freedom to make choices is great for us, but this freedom brings grave responsibility. We have all made poor choices at times and suffered the consequences. The good news is, no matter what choices we have made in the past, there is always opportunity for a better future. God knew that we would make many bad choices. But He loves us so much that He sent Jesus. And Jesus made a free-will choice to pay the price for our sin to provide a way to restore our relationship with God, even when we periodically choose to walk away.

karl-benzio-1Dr. Karl Benzio MD, Christian Psychiatrist, writer, speaker, media guest expert, social issue activist, and the founder and clinical director of Lighthouse Network. Benzio brings scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s storms. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students about counseling, leadership, parenting, marriage, and conflict resolution skills in traumatized areas like Uganda, Kenya and post-Hussein Iraq. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council, the Pennsylvania Director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, and serves on many other social policy task forces. His specialties include adolescents, addictions, decision-making and infusing spirituality into treatment. Benzio shares psycho-spiritual insights via his Stepping Stones daily devotional, on his one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” on 425 Christian radio stations and on iDisciple.org.

Email: KBenzio@LighthouseNetwork.org

Twitter: @drkarlb