Out of house, into liquor bottles

Every year in America, hundreds of thousands of young people leave the comforts of home in pursuit of higher education. Along the way, many of these students will be derailed by the influence of illegal narcotics that flood the halls of America’s universities.

Many experts believe there are various reasons why students abuse drugs and alcohol while in college. One of the most prominent beliefs is a lack of authority figures in the lives of young people causes them to go down the wrong path.

“You definitely see more cases of drug abuse and alcohol abuse with students in their freshman and sophomore years,” said Cassie Hammock, executive director of the French Town Outreach center.

The outreach center is an organization that works with those affected by chemical dependency and their families. They perform interventions and prevention education to citizens of the city of Tallahassee.

“Often times, kids who are unready for college, in terms of maturity, find themselves facing situations that they have not been prepared to handle properly,” said Hammock.

According to studies done by the Core Institute, 22 percent of college students surveyed said they had used marijuana within the 30 days before taking the survey. Another 74 percent reported they had consumed alcohol within the last month.

Across the country, the use of intoxicating substances has led to the consistent down fall of many college students. Numerous nationwide studies show a clear connection between the use of drugs and alcohol and the overall academic performance of most students.

In a national survey taken of 94,000 students from 197 different institutions, students who reported having an A average said that they consumed less than four drinks per week. In contrast, students with D or F averages estimated an average of 10 or more drinks a week. In the same study, 32 percent of students said that they had missed time in class due to the after effects of alcohol and drug abuse.

“More times than not, the problem lies with students looking for new (friends) wanting to belong, and they end up falling into a bad element,” said Harold Ford, a student coordinator with FAMU’s Sunshine Manor. “They are away from their parents and they are away from that natural environment that they were raised in. So they come here, and for many of them it’s the first time they are away from home.

“It’s a hard situation to cope with.”

Ford said students who get caught up with substance abuse while in college are usually good people who make poor decisions and fall into a bad element. He also said there isn’t one specific method of preventing students from abusing drugs and alcohol while in college.

“There are many factors to be considered,” he said. “It depends less on how that person was raised, but more so on the emotional maturity of the individual.”

“I know that I’m here to get educated, and to get my degree so that’s going to overrule all the partying and what not,” said Quentin Brownlee, a freshman nursing student from Miami.

Brownlee said with his grandmother eight hours away, she is still a major influence on his behavior. He also said finding older students to talk to helps him and others overcome the regular hardships of life away from home.

Ford agrees finding older students to relate to is helpful in keeping younger students on the right path when it comes to illegal substances.

“Students who have been where these kids are at – and gone through same experiences – are definitely capable of helping them through this tough time in their lives,” Ford said.

Resident assistants can be good sources of advice for their younger counterparts on how to stay away from substance abuse.

Christopher Oliver, a resident assistant in the Palmetto housing complex, said RAs make considerable efforts to get to know many of the students in their assigned dormitory. By setting different activities, the RAs feel as though they are creating an open environment in which students can feel free to come and talk about their problems, drug related or otherwise.

“Each RA is supposed to do a program a month, and there are five different RAs (in Palmetto Phase III). So with five different programs going on, it kind of helps residents do things that control their time outside of class,” Oliver said.

Ford stresses that RAs are not the only source of guidance for students who are facing the temptation of drugs and alcohol. There’s a number of resources around the city of Tallahassee at the students’ disposal.

Contact Anthony M. Moore at a_m_moore@hotmail.com.