Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why are America's college students abusing drugs and alcohol?

This week, USA Today reported that nearly half of the nation’s 5.4 million college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol to excess at least twice a month. 22.9% of students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence — a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences — compared with 8.5% of all people 12 and older.

What is responsible for the increase in substance abuse among college students in America? I believe the increase is due to lack of development of the Inner Triangle, which is a common problem in young people today. Remember that the Inner Triangle is our Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. These develop in a mutually dependent manner in concert during childhood and adolescence.

Why would a problem with Ability to Love, Impulse Control and/or Moral Reasoning lead to substance abuse and ultimately to addiction? First consider Ability to Love. The enjoyment of loving relationships has to be a person’s number one joy in life. When love of friends/family is not number one, a person seeks to fill the void. Often the void is filled with substances of abuse, food or even sex.

Poor Impulse Control is associated with excessive thrill seeking or sensation seeking. This sensation seeking correlates highly with substance abuse and unsafe sexual behavior during adolescence and young adulthood.

Moral Reasoning is the way we think about moral values, and the way these values guide our behavior. College students who are not trying to do their best are lacking in moral values.

Why would a problem with the Inner Triangle be so prevalent today? The reason is parenting. Parents today are too busy and too burdened to model, influence and teach Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. To give your child the gift of a well-developed triangle takes time and effort. Children and Teens need lots of quality time with the right adults or they will not fully develop the Inner Triangle.

The models and influences of our popular culture that surround or children and teens impart poor Ability to Love, poor Impulse Control and bankrupt moral values. The proof of this is in the fact that these models (like B. Spears), themselves suffer with defective Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning!

To counteract these influences, parents must keep themselves in the center of their children’s lives for as long as possible. Do not abandon your child/teen to his peer group. Peers should not raise your child, you should. If you need to take corrective action, start by spending time with your child/teen. Gradually shift his/her time away from unsupervised peer activities toward supervised activities. The more time your child/teen spends growing as a person, the better developed his/her Inner Triangle will be.

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