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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 12, 2014

Substance abuse is a persistent problem on college campuses. What role does brain chemistry play in young people’s vulnerability to alcohol and other drugs? These two articles suggest some answers.

Brain Chemistry and the Low Price of Drinks Drive College Binge Drinking

What is it that drives some college students to drink to excess again and again and again? This piece from NPR explains that there are multiple factors driving college binge drinking. One is brain chemistry. College-aged brains are still developing, so while the part of the brain that seeks reward and stimulation is fully mature by the time 18 year olds begin their freshman year, the bits that control impulsive behavior still have a ways to go. This imbalance is what makes taking too many shots or playing drinking games seem so appealing. The other big factor may seem more obvious, but is also more controllable. The lower the average price of a drink in an area, the more binge drinking is reported amongst local college students.

Adolescent Marijuana Use Correlates to “All Adverse Young Adult Outcomes”

A new study from the British journal The Lancet Psychiatry suggests that teenaged marijuana use correlates strongly to a variety of alarming outcomes. Teen pot-smokers were 60% less likely than peers to graduate from high school, 60% less likely to finish college, seven times more likely to attempt suicide and eight times more likely to use other illegal drugs than their non-smoking counterparts. Significantly, the authors found that even “low levels” of marijuana use (as infrequently as once per month) greatly increased teens risks of the aforementioned negative outcomes when compared to teens who did not smoke marijuana at all, suggesting that “there may not be a threshold where [cannabis] use can be deemed safe” for adolescents. With the legal landscape shifting quickly on the issue of marijuana possession and use, it seems clear that any legislative reforms must take pains to keep cannabis out of the hands of teen users.

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Free Substance Abuse Prevention Posters
Posted by On Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Not Everyone Binge DrinksHelp prevent substance abuse on your campus with these posters from the design team behind our award-winning online training program Think About It.

These posters raise awareness about the risks of using alcohol and marijuana by addressing widely-held myths about each substance.

“Weed is Not Safe for Everyone” debunks the widespread and false belief that using marijuana is a universally safe and positive experience. This poster highlights statistics regarding the frequency of negative reactions to marijuana consumption, giving students the facts to more accurately assess the consequences of using cannabis.

Similarly, studies have shown that college students consistently overestimate how often and how much their peers drink. “Not Everyone Binge Drinks” counteracts the potentially dangerous perception that “everyone else is doing it” by providing students with the most reliable figures available on the prevalence of on-campus binge drinking.

Download the posters here:

  1. Weed is Not Safe for Everyone
  2. Not Everyone Binge Drinks
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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 2, 2014

Substance abuse is not a new campus safety issue. However, the shape that challenge takes is always changing. This week we’re highlighting three stories about new trends in substance abuse that may very well suggest the challenges college administrators will face in the future.

Marijuana Vaporizers

Just as electronic cigarettes pose a new regulatory challenge, their cannabis cousins, vaporizers, pose an equal challenge to schools determined to curb drug use on campus. A vaporizer can be used to consume marijuana—it heats marijuana flowers or concentrates to around 350 degrees, not hot enough to burn but hot enough to vaporize the psychoactive chemical THC and produce a high every bit as potent as smoking from a joint or a pipe. These devices pose a unique problem for campus administrators. Vaporizers can be as small as a pen, and produce none of the tell-tale skunk-like odor associated with smoking marijuana. As a result, they are easy to use discreetly and hide. In fact, they are virtually indistinguishable from e-cigarettes. With the market for vaporizers growing at a pace usually associated with tech startups, colleges and universities trying to prevent students from getting high on campus will be hard-pressed to find a way to remove vaporizers from their grounds.

Powdered Alcohol

Similar problems are presented by the possibility of widely-available powdered alcohol, a concept that took one step closer to reality when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued the federal approvals necessary for a product called Palcohol to be made and sold in the United States. While the TTB has since said that those approvals were issued “in error,” it’s not clear what that means for the future of Palcohol, and it’s possible that just-add-water margaritas and mojitos could still be coming soon to a liquor store near you, or your campus. Like vaporizers, powdered alcohol could pose a major challenge to schools determined to keep their campuses substance free—it’s not hard to imagine students sneaking small packets of powdered booze to school events in their pockets or bags and then adding them to the punch or water bottles. Powdered alcohol might pose other problems as well. It’s not yet clear what would happen if an intoxicated undergrad tried to snort a packet of Palcohol, or eat it straight, or add half the recommended amount of water, but preventing such scenarios might become a top priority for schools as soon as Palcohol can work out their differences with the TTB.

Heroin on Campus

While marijuana and alcohol are both well-known problems on college campuses (and the traditional focus of prevention programs), few schools consider hard drugs like heroin to be a major problem. Now, however, that’s starting to change, especially for schools located in areas where the use of heroin or other hard drugs is increasing in the larger population. Incidents such as the overdose death of a University of Rochester freshman are prompting administrators to begin expanding their prevention efforts to include hard drugs, a change one campus health center director has described as a “paradigm shift.”. New efforts include screening student patients for hard drug use and making resources available for addicts trying to beat an addiction.

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