December 28, 2010
by Joel D. Rodríguez and Lenier Arvelo
When we think of the university, we consider it a place where people enrich themselves of new information, in the quest of recognizing what they want to pursue in the future, strengthening their skills and grasping their abilities.
However, there are many factors that tag along with the individual that are considered “normal” within the college environment such as stress, headaches, sleep deprivation, weight increase or decrease, among others. Unable to deal with the load of academic responsibilities, college students turn to other alternatives in order to cope with their student life. The one that stands out the most is the use of drugs.
For some time now, drugs have been used by college students to help them escape from the academic stress that bounds students from pursuing any other type of activities, such as social interactions. Some of the main drugs that have been used by this community are marihuana and alcohol. According to a study made by the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Studies, 61.2% of male students and 46.7% of female students drink alcohol; furthermore, 12.7% of male students and 4.7% female students use marihuana.
Although these are some of the most recognized drugs within the student community, smoking and caffeine overdose (e.g. energy drinks) are also considered substantial drugs by the way they affect student performance.
Statistics of 2004 by the “Consorcio de Estudios Universitarios Sembrando Alianza de Alerta a las Drogas, el Alcohol, y la Violencia” (C.R.U.Z.A.D.A.) show that 51.9% of the students of the UPR system consumed alcohol 30 days before taking the survey, 41.9 of them being binge drinking (five or more shots in one sitting); 33.9% smoked in the last year, 10% being on a daily basis; 7.7% are current marihuana users and 5.6% used an illegal drug other than marihuana in the past year.
As we can see, there is a majority that consumes drugs during their college studies. However, we cease to notice that individuals who study also have other responsibilities that affect their academic and personal performance, such as employment in private or public institutions, family situations, and socioeconomic issues (e.g. debt, meetings).
According to Mr. Hernán Mendez, coordinator of the program for health promotion and prevention of the University of Puerto Rico—Mayagüez (UPRM), “many of the factors that influence the decision-making of drug consumption are problems with family members, partners, people one spends their time with, and the place where they are located.”
For example, after taking an exam and failing, a person is perpetrated by negative thoughts and lack of achievement. If a friend invites this person for a few drinks suggesting it to forget about the results of their performance, the person will be influenced by their friend and encouraged to drink. In another case, the person can be asked to smoke some “pot” or “weed” to forget about the exam and take away all worry from their mind.
As a consequence, 81.5% of the student community say that the feel great risk of consuming crack and 82.5% of them consuming cocaine.
In addition, there are actually two ideologies that reigns over the minds of Puerto Ricans about the use and impact of alcohol based
on a study of C.R.U.S.A.D.A.. There is the false ideology that considers the consumption of alcohol as a natural process of the college student; the absence of alcohol is considered a loss, it is said that they “missed on great times” since they did not went through the experience.
This ideology is strengthened by the marketing and promotion of alcoholic beverages directed specifically towards the student community. This is tied with the vision of great social interaction and pleasures (e.g. partying, romance, sex). The second ideology considers that students must be motivated by the university’s environment and culture that opt for a healthier, positive and with great social tactics that do not include the use of drugs.
Besides the subjective view, there is also the objective perspective by the people that surround the student. Friends, family and other members of society are also affected by the life style chosen by the student who consumes drugs.
A statistics by the Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans says that 60.55% of “clean” students had study or sleep interrupted, 53.6% had to deal with a drunken student, 29.3% have been insulted or humiliated, 9.5% have been pushed, hit, or assaulted, and 1.3% of women have been victim of sexual assault (date rape). In other words, other members of the student community and society are also victims of drug abuse by college students, resulting in serious injuries, criminal charges, or life threatening situations.
Furthermore, the effect of these drugs have a stronger impact on the individual by being unable to function and reason the same way, degrading their energy and stamina as they continue within their student life. It has been proven that students consume more drugs than the general public.
According to an article of USA Today, “22.9% of students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence—a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences—compared with 8.5% of all people 12 and older.”
Nevertheless, there are alternatives students can incline to instead of depending on drugs. Mendez stated that the first thing that helps relieve tension and encourages the student to perform well is to do what they enjoy doing most, “Being sidetracked from our pleasures, that which makes us happy, makes us take a dark road that further takes us away from all of that.”
He continues by saying that socializing with people with the same interest as ours, having hobbies, and maintaining a connection with our cultural background is essential in our search to maintain a balance in our lives and to repel stress.
According to C.R.U.Z.A.D.A., 64.8% of the student body of UPRM did not smoke in the last year, 78.9% did not consume marihuana, 93.2% did not consume any other drugs, 94.1% have not experimented any type of aggressive act, 22.4% of the people that consumed alcohol state that they have consumed less in the last year, and 30.1% reported to have reduced the use of drugs.
As we can see, there are many influences that affect our performance as students and individuals that conflict with our goals as future academics and professionals. It all depends on the life style we want to take and the philosophy we choose to grasp.