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In the next few weeks millions of college kids will return home for the holiday break. Excited families will embrace them after their absence and encourage them to share their college experiences – everything from academics to athletics to new friendships. But for many students returning home, they will do their best to keep one part of their college life private – their alcohol and drug use.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 2012, 60.3 percent of college student’s ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that since the early 1990s, the number of students using marijuana daily has more than doubled and use of drugs like cocaine and heroin is up 52%.

Pat Owens, a lead therapist at the Greenhouse, a leading provider of substance abuse treatment services for individuals with drug and/or alcohol addiction, offers these warning signs that your college-aged child may be abusing drugs or alcohol: 

  • Changes in sleeping patterns or significant weight gain or loss
  • Acting withdrawn or secretive
  • Significant change in academic performance
  • Unexplained personality or behavior changes
  • Uncharacteristic behavior including depression, irritability of mood swings 

If you suspect your student is abusing drugs or alcohol, the best way you can help them is by letting them know you are concerned about them and want to help them. Educate them about the dangers and consequences of drug abuse and help them identify reasons like peer pressure or academic pressure that have led them to start using drugs. If you believe your student has gone past abuse to addiction, seek help from an in-patient or outpatient addiction treatment facility.

Author Bio:

Ms. Owens is currently a lead therapist with the Greenhouse. Prior to joining the Greenhouse, Ms. Owens’ experience with addictions includes working with adolescents, young adults, and adults in residential, hospital, intensive outpatient and community based programs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. She has developed and directed numerous specialized and innovative programs that have been featured on NBC News, Good Morning America and the Oprah Winfrey show to name a few. 

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