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Risky behavior more common for freshmen, statistics say

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Students at Ohio State are indulging in risky behavior with substances such as alcohol, marijuana and even non-prescribed stimulant medication to deal with various stresses in their lives, according to research from the Student Wellness Center.

“First quarter freshman year tends to be where a spike occurs with drinking or other risky behavior,” said Amanda Blake, the alcohol and other drug wellness coordinator at the Student Wellness Center. “The biggest thing I hear is, ‘This is just what you do in college.'”

The Student Wellness Center works with coordinating programs such as BASICS and CASICS and offers general health education for students on the Columbus campus.

BASICS, or Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students, is a program geared toward reducing alcohol abuse. Similarly, CASICS stands for Cannabis Screening and Intervention for College Students, which is focused on the prevention of marijuana use.

“At the Wellness Center we mostly get students who have problems with alcohol, but some are referrals for marijuana,” Blake said. “For BASICS we see roughly 150 students per year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re addicted to alcohol.”

Blake said in 2011, of all the students referred to the Wellness Center, only 6 percent of them had alcoholism-testing scores that fell into the category of developing a serious alcohol problem.

While freshmen appear to abuse alcohol and marijuana more frequently because of “social norms,” it seems that upper level students take to using various stimulants to deal with stress, anxiety or other mental health issues.

Erin Maedeker, a fifth-year in communication, said she thinks alcohol and prescription drugs like Adderall are the most abused substances at OSU.

Adderall is a commonly prescribed stimulant for individuals who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

“I think Adderall is just a really popular drug and people get stressed out,” Maedeker said. “They think it’s the only way they can get through exams and stay up and stay focused.”

Curtis Haywood, a senior staff psychiatric counselor and substance abuse specialist and coordinator of the Counselor Education and School Psychology Clinic, agreed.

“Alcohol and pot are the most commonly abused substances, but it’s not uncommon for me to work with students who are recovering from coke, crystal meth, Adderall, Oxycontin and others as well,” said Haywood.

Both CESP and Counseling Consultation Services offer individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric services, outreach to the university community, crisis group facilitation, and consultation and counseling to students suffering from substance abuse.

During Autumn Quarter 2008, the Research and Assessment team at OSU conducted a study of 5,000 randomly selected students over the age of 18 designed to evaluate the non-medical use of prescription and non-prescription medications. The study was administered to undergraduate, professional and graduate students at OSU.

Fifty percent of students said it wasn’t until college that they first started to use prescription stimulants that were not prescribed for them.

Roughly 70 to 75 percent of students said they that believe other students started using prescription stimulants to improve concentration, to increase alertness and to do better in school. Along with Adderall, the study also included the use of stimulants Ritalin, Dexedrine and Concerta.

“You hear students say they use drugs because they need to escape, to self-medicate, because of unwanted emotions, or because they think it’s an avenue for socialization,” Haywood said. “Many of our clients present with anxiety, depression, or even relationship issues.”

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