Note from the editors: The following story contains issues related to mental health and drug and alcohol abuse.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline is 1-800-662-4357.
As college students at a consistently top-ranked party school with a strong Greek-life presence, us Lehigh students are constantly being exposed to the pressures of party culture. Binge drinking, experimenting with different substances—some may argue, why would you choose not to do it when seemingly everyone else is?
While some peers commonly joke about substance abuse and speak of it casually, what people tend to forget is addiction can affect anyone—parents, friends, friends of a friend…any of us.
In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf deemed the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency, declaring it as the first of its kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania. Lehigh County had the eighth highest drug death rate in the state. Northampton County was 15th.
By 2020, after receiving tips of excessive drinking and drug use, Lehigh put a pause on Greek life in an effort to prioritize the health and safety of students.
The reality is, this epidemic impacts more people around you than you may realize.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yet another scare tactic.”
Data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately 104,000 people have died of drug overdoses in the past 12-month period. Now compare that to the 52,000 who overdosed in September 2015. Why is this happening?
Well, we’re two years into the pandemic. It’s no surprise to us that mental health concerns have come center stage when so many individuals have been isolating themselves for so long.
Sure, mask mandates and quarantine regulations are less restrictive than they once were. However, people are continuing to face the pandemic’s long-term effects.
These substances may sometimes feel like the only way to escape reality. Factors such as peer pressure, abuse and stress are all common reasons for starting drug use. Or in some cases, prescriptions from healthcare workers may turn into an addiction. Some people are also genetically more prone to addiction.
Regardless of how someone may stumble into drug use, addiction does not come willingly and users are not to blame. Addiction is not a choice. Regardless of how it’s glamorized by movies and television shows, it’s not pretty and can look different on each person.
With a show like “Euphoria” gaining widespread popularity, drug addiction has become a familiar topic to many of us college students—its primary demographic.
“Euphoria’s” first episode had over 16.7 million viewers and now averages 16.5 million viewers per episode. If you’re not familiar with it (you probably are), “Euphoria” follows the story of Rue, a 17-year-old fresh out of rehab, facing the realities of drug addiction and the challenges that come with staying clean.
During the airing of season one, “Euphoria” faced scrutiny for its glamorization of party culture and the abuse of drugs and alcohol. But season two has been somewhat redeeming for many viewers.
Raw scenes are now depicting Rue’s deterioration and the harmful impact addiction has on those who care about her.
Many believe that “Euphoria’s” Hollywood-esque representation of high school is too unbelievable to properly depict the realities of drug abuse. Others think it facilitates important conversations surrounding addiction.
We’re not here to convince you one way or another. Either way, more serious conversations are a must.
Regardless of what you hear about the “typical college experience,” it is important to be vigilant of yourself and those you care about to ensure that you are in control of your consumption rather than a reliance on any particular substance being in control of you. This topic of addiction that is often casually joked about is a chronic disease that can be invisible to the eye, which is why college students could be due for a reality check to take stock if the relationship with their vices is healthy.
If you’re struggling with addiction, information regarding resources on and outside of campus can be found on Lehigh’s Counseling and Psychological Services page.