Your college years are meant to be unforgettable, timeless and fun. This is the time to not only build a professional foundation for success, but to make lifelong friends, find your passions and grow intellectually.
For most new students, college also brings a newfound sense of freedom. For the first time, you are the only person responsible for the decisions that will affect your day-to-day life. With this freedom, you will likely find yourself experiencing new things, new people and new ideas. This includes drinking alcohol and experimenting with different drugs.
But, according to statistics the amount of drug and alcohol related cases on Missouri Western’s campus have actually decreased significantly over the past years between 2013 to present year, 2019. Can these statistics be related to other neighboring campuses? If not, what is Missouri Western doing differently?
Residential Life Director Nathan Roberts discusses on why he believes numbers have decreased within the residential halls over the past years and what he thinks is causing these students to be more cautious.
“Drugs and alcohol are a social lubricant. People come to college anxious, and they try to find their friend group. It’s just kind of an easy way to get into things. I think we tweak some of the policies to make clearer for students to understand. We put a different emphasis on the staff confronting behavior and train them better. I think this university does a good job in trying to help students who have a bad semester.”
You may be exposed to a party and drug culture that you have never experienced while in college. Most likely, you will also be presented with the opportunity to drink heavily and try drugs. In 2013-14, there were approximately 153 drug and alcohol related violations recorded on campus for that full academic year.
There was a significant jump the following year 2014-15, to 335 drug and alcohol related violations. Roberts states that the jump could be related to the change in policies and better reporting these violations directly through residential life.
“This was the first fall that I was here. I think we were changing some of the focus on the policies and the ways RA’s confronted things. The next couple of years is when things started to balance out. It’s really a team effort especially with the police department as they help put emphasis on educating students and interacting with them in a positive way. It definitely has trended very positive over the past few years,” Roberts said.
The next following year, 2016-17, is when things slowed down, and there were only 293 drug and alcohol violations were reported and only 83 of those were reports were empty alcohol containers.
MWSU Police Chief Jill Voltmer states her thoughts on why she believes that numbers have been going down significantly and why social relationships have actually been bettering these situations.
“We do a lot better job of keeping our eyes on these situations. People tend to take better care of each other. I mean 10 years ago if someone was extremely intoxicated their friends would leave them, but I don’t think they do that as much now because too many bad things can happen,” Voltmer said.
There are many contributing factors as to why college students feel the need to turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. These factors include peer pressure, stress, heavy workload and experimenting.
First, peer pressure occurs when college students are surrounded by other people who are using and experimenting with different types of drugs and alcohol. This is one of the most common aspects in students because of new found friendships and involving themselves in organizations such as fraternities and sororities.
UMKC student, Casheena Colin, explains the comparison between neighboring schools and what she believes sparks up the conversation of drugs and alcohol on her campus.
“I believe students are just being more careful about their business rather than being out in the open about it. Times are changing right before our eyes because soon marijuana will be legal everywhere, and I personally believe that is the most common drug amongst students and the majority already drink. We don’t want to risk our future careers or financial aid over something that is temporary, ” Colin said.
Stress can be caused by students who are faced with jobs, social obligations, heavy course load, and relationships. Drinking and abusing drugs is a method used for coping in these situations, and this is where many students may fall to the need of wanting to drink it away or catch the high they need in order to manage these overwhelming feelings and emotions.
“There’s a lot of mental stressors that come with going to college, a combination of homesickness and relationships. Also, the pressures of trying to balance working, studying and going to class can make students feel the need to rely on alcohol and drugs. The good thing is that we have free resources on campus that can help students deal with these stressors such as the counseling center,” Voltmer said.
Most of the factors can be combined in situations such as when students are faced with a heavy course load. College professors are providing students with an extreme amount of homework that can affect their lives in more ways than one, such as managing work schedules, social/ intimate relationships and time management . This is where the factors tie in together and cause extreme stress and doubts in students that can trigger the sense of needing a drink or getting that high they need.
All of those factors had one thing in common. Abuse. Many students abuse drinking and drugs because they believe it will help fight those unwanted and unsettling emotions.
Western has been very efficient in providing students with the tools and resources that they need in order to stray away from abusing these substances. For example, counseling is fully available for students who feel that they are succumb to drugs and alcohol and the attributing factors that are consuming them.