Returning to college — Mitigation post-COVID & avoiding substance abuse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 2021

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Returning to the new school year will be different for some students. Many states are seeing increased cases with the Delta Variant or are implementing new COVID mandates. However, America is finally being unmasked. America’s young people are of a statistically low risk from COVID based on the CDC’s own data and should mitigate their own risk. Returning to college will present challenges, whether post-COVID hurdles, adjusting to on-campus learning or avoiding issues with substance use—there are going to be certain risks and challenges.


Most Americans and states are learning to live with the virus. Yet, there are still risks, especially for anyone abusing drugs or alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 33% of college students reported binge drinking. Approximately 1.5% of college students reported the non-medical use of opioids, and 8.1% reported the non-medical use of amphetamines. Substance abuse is a real problem on many college campuses. Returning to school post-COVID presents new challenges. Some students may have already developed a drinking or drug problem during the lockdowns and school closures.

Binge drinking and drug abuse increase the risk of contracting COVID and causes significant physical and psychological problems. Mitigation post-COVID and avoiding substance abuse will be at the forefront for some returning students and new students. There are still concerns with COVID, but most people are learning to live with it as it stands. However, substance abuse in college begins for many reasons, but there are some common factors. For example, this includes peer pressure, easy availability, curiosity, relaxation, college lifestyle and social anxiety relief.

One of the best ways to deal with substance abuse in college is to prevent it from happening before it develops into an addiction. Most college campuses offer substance abuse prevention programs. Parents, guardians and caregivers should talk with their loved one and point out the risks involved. Substance abuse during college leads to poor academic performance, legal problems, drunk driving, sexual assault, and short and long-term physical health problems.

On-campus resources may include sober activities and alternatives to the party circuit, mental health support, and promotion of sobriety or safe alcohol consumption in campus policies. In addition, family involvement in substance abuse prevention and treatment is essential and drinking prevention programs are proven effective. The first few weeks on campus for any student sets the tone for his or her college experience—especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

College students manage significant external pressure to succeed. Post-COVID, there are new barriers and even more pressure for some students. Do not let addiction or substance abuse control the college experience. Regardless of what is happening in the post-COVID climate, college is a time to take on new responsibilities and pay attention to mental health issues or substance abuse issues. Millions of Americans struggled during the lockdowns and restrictions—specifically college-age adults. Go into the new college year better prepared to overcome new obstacles. Increase awareness about substance abuse and COVID risk, and always reach out for help and support when needed.


Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a health care professional specializing in substance use disorder and addiction recovery. He is a regular contributor to the healthcare website and a certified clinical medical assistant.