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A way from addiction

By Paige Pearcy, Deputy Magazine Editor
Published January 13, 2013

She joined after being introduced to it by her AA sponsor.

“I know that if I didn’t have this community, if I just tried to stay sober by myself, it wouldn’t have worked,” Paige said.

Desprez said the University combats dangerous drinking and drug use in a variety of ways.

“We know a couple things, that one thing won’t work so you have to do a series of interventions” with evidence-based strategies, Desprez said.

Zucker added that because college offers a more “at-risk” environment for drinking, universities offer different options to combat drinking issues, with some programs working better than others.

“If you look at the data, there’s a tremendous amount of variation with some schools still very clearly being party schools, where it’s likely also that the alumni and the administration don’t take a heavy stance about controlling it,” Zucker said. “Then there’s schools who take it more seriously, who have alternative activities on football nights that don’t involve drinking or arrange transportation and generally raise awareness of the risk that’s associated with this.”

The student life survey, which is compiled from a random sample of students at the University every two years, shows that every year since 2005 — a year when binge drinking at the University hit its all-time high of 53.2 percent — it has decreased.

One effort to decease drinking at the University is the “Stay in the Blue” harm-prevention campaign started in the fall of 2006.

“(The Stay in the Blue campaign) helps people attach a (blood alcohol content) level to a level of low risk,” Desprez said.

Marsha Benz, health educator for alcohol and other drugs, was one of the primary people involved with initiating the campaign. Last spring, she said a big factor in making the campaign successful was including students in the process.

This year’s data, which was released with the 2011 student life survey results, shows the binge drinking prevalence number is the lowest it has been in over 10 years, at 44.7 percent. The lowest percentage previously reported was 45 percent in 1999.

Like Paige, Jake seldom mentioned being scared while using drugs. The only time Jake explicitly referred to his experiences as being scary was when he traveled to Detroit and overdosed. He said usually he wasn’t scared about using drugs.

“The two favorable options were to finally realize I can finally live a life clean or to not have to be in that misery anymore,” Jake said. “So it didn’t seem so bad in the moment to use those drugs and alcohol and think ‘Well, maybe if I wasn’t here anymore, it’d be better than being miserable.’ But you realize after the haze clears, that that’s a crazy thought and that you shouldn’t think like that, but in the moment you’re not really afraid of it. At least I wasn’t.”

To say it was easy to listen to the things they’ve already gone through in their still-young lives would be a lie. Paige and Jake, both sober and clean now, kept saying they were lucky — lucky to have the resources to already be in recovery — and that was the most hopeful outlook I could find for the problem of underage addiction and addiction in general.


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