Substance abuse among college students a constant concern

Denzel Hampton’s freshman year didn’t go nearly as smoothly as he had hoped.

Away from his native New York City and on his own for the first time, he was eager to enjoy his college years. He shirked his responsibilities as a student and began partying every weekend.

“Thursday night through Saturday night was filled with hangovers and hundreds of dollars down the drain,” Hampton said via email. “I became (alcoholic) because of the constant parties that I went to. If I was going to a party, I had to be drunk.”

It got so bad that he remembered passing out in a hotel bathroom for hours, which was the wake-up call he needed.

Even as he weaned himself off of alcohol, however, he began to turn to smoking pot. His GPA dropped to a 1.4 and he failed three of his midterms. The following semester, despite his efforts to turn everything around, his average was still too low, prompting academic dismissal.

“I cried right behind of Neumann dormitory for hours, saying to myself, ‘Why did I mess up? Why did I waste my mother’s hard-earned money?’” Hampton said. “For the last couple of days of school I walked with my head down in shame. Nobody could understand the pain I went through. I packed my bags and went home thinking that it was all a dream.”


Hampton’s story is hardly unique. About 80 percent of college students drink at least on occasion, while over 20 percent of college students use marijuana frequently. An average of 31 percent of students have missed a class due to alcohol use, while students who use marijuana more than 17 times a month are twice as likely than most students to have an enrollment gap while attending college.

Countless other students have gotten kicked out or dropped out of school due to drug- and alcohol-related issues. This is most likely because the average college student parties for 10 or more hours a week, compared to only seven and a half hours a week that they spend studying.

“I see (drug and alcohol use) every weekend and some weeknights,” freshman Serafina Breslawski said. “I see it in the dorms, at parties and outside (on campus).”

The reason why drugs and alcohol are so sought after by young people remains in question. Hampton thinks the reason might be related to the sudden freedom students experience upon entering dorm life.

“Being a freshman, a lot of students realize that they are away from home, so they tend to do as they please,” Hampton said. “Many students are leaving their parents’ guidance and just want to have fun.”

Hampton, faced with his mother’s questions and the emails in his inbox telling him he couldn’t return to Buffalo State until Fall 2014, knew he needed to make a change. He emailed his advisor and asked for help, and is currently trying his best to make a return and finish his academic career.


University Police does its part to make sure the number of students who get caught in that trap is reduced. Chief of Police Peter Carey explained that UPD speaks to roughly 2,000 incoming freshman and transfer students per year through its personal safety seminar.

If students get caught with illegal substances, they are subject to student judicial referral and even arrest.

Recently, there have also been a number of drug- and alcohol-related complications that resulted in hospitalizations, as well as several campus police searches in the freshman dorms, especially in Porter.

So, why do college students, specifically freshman, turn to the “party lifestyle”?

“(When students) drink every once in a while, I think it is just to ‘party off’ some of the stress that goes with college,” Breslawski said. “I think, however, that (students) who are constantly drinking insane amounts may have a problem feeling comfortable sober and need to drink to be able to socialize.”

Alcohol and drugs seem to be a type of coping method for students so that they can “fit in”, feel comfortable, and “have fun.”

“There is so much marijuana use on campus that UPD has to let some students go without penalty,” student Daisjia Gray said.

She explained that students have found effective ways to smoke comfortably in their rooms without setting off smoke alarms or getting caught.

Not only are students using illegal substances, but other students are also selling them. Hampton believes that though campus police is working hard to stop the selling and using of illegal substances on campus, going as far as to search dorm rooms, they will nevertheless be a problem.

“It will always be primarily up to the student to decline (the drugs and alcohol) and go about their business,” Hampton said.

Students can also help others — and even be more persuasive than authorities — by enlightening them on the hazards of underage drinking and illegal drug use.

“My advice to every college student and every freshman student is: find who you are as a person and as a student,” Hampton said. “With that, you will be able to locate yourself around people who will help you become something better, and not just a statistic.”

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