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Strategies For Classmates Of Drug Addicted Students

It can be challenging to be in a situation where someone you know, such as a classmate or college friend, is struggling with addiction. What may have started as occasional “recreational use” of alcohol or drugs could be turning into something more dangerous. You may begin to notice unusual behavior and an increase in usage, and despite wanting to believe they’re just “having fun,” you may worry for their safety. The first piece of advice is to remain calm, many people are affected by addiction. There are various strategies you can use to address the situation, and the most important thing to remember is that you’re not responsible for their addiction.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), around 1,519 college students aged between 18 and 24 years old die every year due to unintentional injuries caused by alcohol. This includes motor vehicle accidents. Alcohol-related fatalities add up to over 80,000 each year, making it the third highest preventable cause of death in the United States.

According to the 2021 Monitoring The Future National Survey Results On Drug Use, these are the rates involving drug use among college students:

  • The percentage of college students who have used heroin over the last year is 0.1%, while the rate of those who have used other narcotics is 0.9%.
  • In the past year, 9.1% of individuals in college have consumed hallucinogenic substances such as LSD.
  • In the past year, a small percentage of college students, equivalent to 0.3%, have made use of methamphetamines.
  • Over the course of the last 12 months, barbiturates have been utilized by approximately 0.9% of students enrolled in college.
  • Within the previous year, tranquilizers have been used by 1.7% of college students.
  • In the last year, cocaine use has been reported by 3.9% of college students.
  • In the last 12 months, drugs other than marijuana have been used by 14.6% of college students.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding behavior despite harmful consequences. It can significantly impact physical and mental health, social relationships, and financial stability.

Addiction can have a significant impact on the school environment, especially in classrooms. For instance, students who are addicted to drugs may need more attention and support from teachers and counselors. This can result in a lack of time and resources available to other students. Additionally, drug use in educational spheres can create an atmosphere of secrecy and mistrust. This can make it challenging for students to feel comfortable and supported in their learning. Therefore, drug addiction is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed in the education system.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms Of Addiction?

Addiction can manifest in various ways, including changes in behavior, physical appearance, and social interactions. Identifying signs of drug or alcohol addiction can differ depending on the person and substance involved, but recognizing common symptoms can help you notice if a friend is struggling. These symptoms may include physical, behavioral, and social changes that indicate addiction.

Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Neglected responsibilities
  • School, work, and hobbies no longer have the same interest level.
  • Poor performance in school or work
  • Self-isolation
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Absence of personal grooming and cleanliness.
  • Engaging in the act of theft or selling off personal belongings to obtain money for drugs. 
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Preoccupation with obtaining drugs

Physical Symptoms of Addiction

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleeping problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Pupils that are smaller or larger than normal
  • Bloody or runny nose
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination

Social Symptoms and Other Signs of Addiction

  • Legal issues
  • Financial difficulties
  • Socializing with others who abuse drugs
  • Drug paraphernalia (spoons, syringes, pipes)

How can classmates of addicts be affected by addiction?

Classmates of addicts can be affected by addiction in several ways: they may experience emotional stress or anxiety from witnessing the struggles of their peers, disruptions in the classroom or group projects due to the addict’s behavior or absenteeism, and they might also develop misconceptions or fears about addiction. Additionally, there’s a risk of being influenced or pressured into similar behaviors, especially in a peer group setting where substance use might be normalized.

How To Talk to Your Addicted Classmate or Friend

Discussing your friend’s substance abuse issue is crucial. It is advisable to start the conversation when they are not intoxicated. If they are not sober while discussing the issue, they may find it difficult to comprehend. It’s also a good idea to meet at a neutral location and have a conversation that lasts more than a few minutes.

Engage in a two-way conversation with your friend to avoid appearing preachy. Make sure to highlight the harmful behaviors you’ve noticed and emphasize your concern for their well-being and that of their loved ones. Experts recommend establishing a positive, unwavering message, such as “We care about you, and we want to support you in getting help.”

It’s crucial to locate a rehabilitation program for your friend before conversing. Conduct thorough research on all possible treatment choices and ask numerous questions to make an informed decision. Depending on the substance being misused and the severity of the addiction, detoxification may be necessary before beginning therapy.

Understand the program’s operation and prepare for your friend’s immediate treatment. Ensure a packed bag and prearranged transportation to facilitate your classmate’s decision-making process.

Which Strategies Can I Use For My Wellbeing?

The well-being of both classmates and students struggling with drug addiction is equally important. When handling the impact of the addict’s behavior, here are 10 approaches that classmates can take to cope with the consequences of the individual’s addiction:

  1. Seek Support for Yourself: Express your emotions and seek support by confiding in a trusted friend, family member, teacher, or school counselor. Also, consider seeking counseling services from your school or community to receive valuable guidance from a mental health professional.
  1. Set Boundaries: Recognize your limits and set boundaries to protect your well-being. If you feel uncomfortable or stressed, it’s okay to distance yourself from the situation.
  1. Educate Yourself: Learning about addiction can provide you with a better understanding of its complexities, which in turn, can help you reduce any confusion or frustration that you may have experienced before.
  1. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize sleep, nutrition, and exercise for optimal physical and emotional well-being.
  1. Engage in Hobbies: Pursuing enjoyable activities and hobbies can reduce stress and provide a mental break from challenges.
  2. Artistic Outlets: If you struggle to express your emotions, explore creative outlets such as writing, drawing, or music. These activities can provide a safe and healthy way to channel your feelings and help you gain new insights into your emotional state.
  1. Journaling: Keeping a journal is a therapeutic way to clarify your thoughts and emotions.
  1. Build a Support Network: Consider seeking support from peers with similar experiences to create a sense of community. Join a school or community club that focuses on well-being, if available.
  1. Avoid Enabling Behavior: It’s crucial to be aware of actions that could unconsciously fuel the addiction of a student. Promote positive decisions without condoning unhealthy habits.
  1. Encourage Professional Help: If your school or college offers support services, encourage addicted students to seek help and share information about available resources.

While navigating a situation involving a peer with addiction, classmates must prioritize their own mental and emotional health by seeking support and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Does Having An Addicted Classmate Pose as a Safety Concern?

Sometimes it can. Estimating the number of alcohol-related sexual assaults is a challenging task since sexual assault is typically underreported. However, researchers have confirmed that 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault during their time in college. A significant majority of these assaults involve alcohol or other substances. Ongoing research aims to understand better the relationship between alcohol consumption and sexual assault among college students. It is crucial to collect additional national survey data to have a more accurate estimate of the number of alcohol-related assaults.

If your classmate’s behavior becomes a danger to themselves or others, it’s essential to report your concerns to someone who can help, such as a teacher, counselor, or school authority. They can provide guidance and resources to support the person and ensure the safety of everyone involved. Remember, addiction is a serious issue, and it’s our responsibility to take appropriate action to help those in need.

How To Avoid Enabling Addiction Without Feeling Guilty? 

We’ve been saying this during the whole article, but it is imperative to inform yourself about addiction. Read about the addict’s behavior and how sometimes they may become manipulative and lie to make you feel guilty. Substance abusers will always present themselves as the victim, and if they don’t get what they want, they may get angry or start creating problems. Resources include the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Partnership to End Addiction, and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

Establishing clear boundaries and adhering to them can be beneficial. Communicate to individuals struggling with addiction that you are willing to assist them in finding treatment and achieving sobriety, but you have unwavering boundaries that you will not compromise. For example, you will not provide them with money, fabricate stories for them, or complete tasks, such as doing their homework, on their behalf.

What Does Enabling My Addicted Classmate Looks Like?

There are various ways in which you may unknowingly contribute to a loved one’s addiction. Some common examples include:

  • Allowing them to live in your home without contributing to household tasks or expenses
  • Paying for their expenses while they are unemployed or spending frivolously.
  • Providing money for them to buy alcohol or drugs, fearing they may resort to illegal or dangerous means to get the cash, or even obtaining the substances for them.
  • Covering the cost of their bail or paying for their fines or legal fees.
  • Making excuses for their addiction or blaming others for their behavior, such as, “The new teacher has been hard on him,” or “She took the stress of the pandemic badly.”
  • Refusing to acknowledge the existence of a problem to others.
  • Neglecting your self-care for being focused on the addict. 

What Are Examples Of Setting Boundaries With My Addicted Classmate?

Here are some real-life examples of how to set boundaries with a classmate who is struggling with addiction:

  1. Communication Limits

Example: “I’ve noticed that we tend to discuss your struggles a lot, which is understandable. However, I need to focus on my studies during weekdays. Can we limit our serious conversations to weekends?”

  1. Refuse to Enable

Example: “I want to help you, but I can’t lend you money as I’ve seen it being used to support your addiction in the past. I’m here to support your recovery in healthier ways.”

  1. Be Honest

Example: “I care about you, but your addiction is affecting our friendship. I must be honest and say it’s hard for me to see you this way. Can we talk about supporting each other without enabling destructive behavior?”

  1. Establish Personal Space

Example: “I value our friendship but also need some personal space. I’ll be setting aside specific times for myself. I hope you understand that it’s not about avoiding you but taking care of my well-being.”

  1. Set Consequences

Example: “I’ve set some boundaries to protect both of us. If those boundaries are consistently crossed, I must reduce our contact. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I must prioritize my well-being.”

  1. Educate Yourself

Example: “I’ve been reading about addiction to understand better what you’re going through. It’s helping me support you in a more informed way. Let’s learn together and find the best way to navigate this.”

  1. Involve Others

Example: “I’m concerned about your well-being, and I think it’s important for you to have a support network. I’ve spoken to (mutual friend/teacher/family member) about this, and they’re also willing to offer support.”

  1. Encourage Professional Help

Example: “I’ve heard that professional help can make a significant difference. I’ll support you in finding a counselor or attending support groups. Let’s take this step together.”

  1. Protect Your Well-being

Example: “I want to be there for you, but it’s becoming overwhelming for me. I need to prioritize my studies and mental health. I hope you understand if I step back for a while.”

  1. Establish Conducive Environments

Example: “Let’s plan activities together that don’t involve substances. How about we go for a hike or try a new hobby? I want us to enjoy each other’s company without the temptation of old triggers.”

What Are The Treatment Options For Your Addicted Classmate?

It is a challenge to provide treatment for college students because they seldom seek help on their own. Numerous colleges have implemented programs to expand recovery options for their students, yet the number of students who pursue treatment has remained relatively low.

Fortunately, there are multiple choices accessible to students. These options consist of:

  • 12-step recovery programs: A support group created to offer assistance and direction in navigating the process of overcoming addiction and sustaining abstinence.
  • Outpatient treatment: In an outpatient treatment program, individuals can come and go from the rehabilitation facility while still receiving the necessary care and support.
  • Partial hospitalization programs: For individuals seeking treatment, partial hospitalization programs offer an option to spend their days at a rehab facility and return home at night.
  • Inpatient programs: Admission-based treatment entails voluntarily admitting oneself into a rehabilitation center for 24/7 medical observation and care.
  • Peer support groups: After undergoing addiction treatment, peer support groups offer a crucial source of communal encouragement to uphold abstinence.

Where to Get Treatment For Addiction?

Simplifying the process of finding treatment can help convince your classmate or friend to consider it. Conduct thorough research and present them with various treatment options to help them decide. It is essential to consider each treatment center’s amenities, cost, and insurance coverage to ensure they receive the appropriate level of care. Individualized needs can affect the cost of rehab, but insurance may be able to assist with the expenses. 

Treatment Options are available for all sorts of different addictions. Heroin rehab centers in New Jersey are easily accessible as well as other drug and alcohol addictions. If you or a classmate is struggling with addiction to drugs, getting help is just a phone call away.

What To Do If My Addicted Classmate Sexually Assaults Me? 

If you experience sexual assault by a classmate struggling with addiction, prioritize your safety by removing yourself from immediate danger if possible. Keep any evidence and seek prompt medical attention. Report the incident to the police, consult a counselor or therapist for emotional support, and contact friends or family. 

Contact campus resources such as security or counseling services if the assault occurred on a college campus. Explore legal options with a professional, document the incident, and consider obtaining a restraining order if necessary. Remember, seeking assistance from professionals, including law enforcement and support services, is crucial in navigating the aftermath of sexual assault.

If the classmate is very close to you, you may try to find excuses for them, like “He only did it because he was high.” You may also feel reluctant to report the incident because you don’t want to get them into trouble, but remember this would be enabling their addiction and also neglecting your well-being. 

How Concerned Should I Be About The Amount Of Adderall My Classmate Is Taking?

If you notice your classmate taking an unusually high amount of Adderall, especially if it’s not prescribed to them, it’s reasonable to be concerned. Misuse of Adderall can lead to serious health risks and dependency issues. It might be helpful to gently express your concern to your classmates and suggest they seek advice from a healthcare professional. Remember, it’s important to approach the situation with sensitivity and respect for their privacy.

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