Todd Ellis is a professional substance abuse counselor who has worked for many years with University students through Region Ten Community Services Board in Charlottesville, which also serves folks in the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson, and Louisa; and is one of the 40 CSBs that serves each of the cities and counties in Virginia. It was in Williamsburg, Virginia where the first residential program was established to assist individuals challenged with the effective management of mental health issues.
The services that benefit the residents of these communities also include a wide range of offerings that individuals may have access to, too numerous to mention, but which are available in detail at the Region Ten website.
A good many of the students Todd Ellis has worked with had either recently been found guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or of driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances (DUI) – and some whose cases had not yet been heard in court. Many were frequently also underage.
Their licenses to drive a motor vehicle had already been suspended – or they had reason to believe that their licenses would soon be suspended – and in order to recover them, they would be required to complete the Alcohol Safety Action Program — a 20-hour Intensive Education Program.
The ASAP program focuses intensely on assisting the individual to have the capacity for an honest self evaluation of their potential for substance dependence. This includes having a grasp of the social, psychological and medical aspects of substance use disorders, so that the person can learn to manage the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle only when sober, to assure the safety of the public and the safety of the driver.
In considerting the most effective approach to this issue, Ellis points to the expertise of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – which as an agency of the federal government, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
“The best ‘formula’ for recovery is the combination of 12-step programs and treatment, and medication if indicated. This has been shown to have the best results for recovery.”
Whether or not students themselves make a conscious choice to consume alcohol, the suffering that may be an unintended consequence can often have a profound effect. The instinct for self-preservation is usually assisted by the ability to reason and — to flee from danger, if necessary.
The use of alcohol has the potential to stifle that instinct and the results — the unintended consequences — can be deadly. Unfortunately, alcohol also has the capacity to “sneak up on you,” so that one minute you are in control and the next minute you’re disabled, and at the mercy of those around you.
According to the National Institutes of Health:
“Consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether they choose to drink or not.”
Many have argued that pushing the boundaries on the use of alcohol is a tradition, and a “rite of passage.” While this may be so, it appears to be in conflict with another age-old tradition, to “question authority.” This rite of passage is often just “blindly practiced,” or sometimes related to the peer-pressure to “join-up” which can often lead to being being “blindly led.” In the long-run, it can’t really be jutified if it’s no longer backed by the exercise of good judgement.
It doesn’t take much alcohol, in some situations for one to loose the capacity to act with good reason.
It’s been a challenge to parents – and to those who support young people in academic situations in loco parentis, (a legal responsibility to act “in the place of parents”) as colleges and universities may do, for the young people there who are still “minors,” in the eyes of the law – and who are legally obliged to warn students of this danger.
Those who are involved in the sale and the overall ‘glint and glamour’ of strong drink also may have a commercial axe to grind, and a short-term objective to be met. For those who are over 21 years of age, it’s certainly their legal right to consume alcohol – provided that they also accept the moral responsibility to others and to themselves to be certain that their consumption of alcohol is otherwise within the law.
Underage drinking is a different matter. There are specific biomedical causes for restrictions to be in place for those who are underage, and anywhere from the age of 18 — to well above the ‘legal’ designation — up to the age of 24.
These particular individuals are especially at-risk until their physiology can begin to safely consume alcohol.
The following are some recent statistics from the NIH’s National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Assault: 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking …
Sexual Abuse: 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape … More than 100,000 students report having been too intoxicated to even know if they consented to having a sexual relationship.
There are some unintended consequences that can occur the very first time a young person ever drinks to excess.
About 25 percent of college students report having academic issues that relate to their drinking including: “missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.”
Many others developed alcohol-related health issues, frequently in the area of mental health — and at this age a surprising number of students report having attempted suicide. According to a 2009 study, more than 3 million students responded that they do drive while they are under the influence of alcohol.
While other consequences included damage to property and involvement with law enforcement, one of the most under-reported unintended consequences is the prospect of alcohol abuse — because it can be extremely challenging to regain control — and studies found that close to one-third of college students had met the diagnostic criteria for that more specific condition.
Although many can move into recovery — especially with that ‘formula’ of having a combination of treatment and 12-step programs, and medication if needed — once attention is effectively brought to bear and treatment is available and there is sufficient understanding of the great risk that is posed by ignoring this condition– there are all kinds of resources available, once the individual student (or any other individual of any age) is able to understand the nature of the challenge.
The great danger is the prospect of future alcohol dependence — not only because it causes even greater harm, it causes harm in a way that is gradual and not too easily noticed. This can can then lead to a lifelong, and often an enormously difficult, situation to manage, and a great — often overpowering — challenge to control.
The 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous has made all the difference to people in all walks of life and continues to prove its worth. The local contact information for our area is: (434) 293-6565
Substance dependence is more serious than abuse. Here are the details:
Criteria for a Diagnosis of Substance Dependence
A maladaptive pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
a. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
b. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
a. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance (refer to the DSM-IV-TR, Criteria A and B of the criteria sets for withdrawal from the specific substances).
b. The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance
(e.g., visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance
(e.g., chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.
6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or mental health problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g., current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression, or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).”
Alcoholics Anonymous has been shown to be the most successful means of recovery thus far. One of the central features of this program is illustrated in the12 Steps of AA. Many individuals have been assisted through Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy.
From the NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information:
“Criteria for a Diagnosis of Substance Abuse
A. A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by:
1. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)
2. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
(e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use)
3. Recurrent substance-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct)
4. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of the substance
(e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights)
For additional information see The NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Criteria for a Diagnosis of Substance Abuse” and especially the Overview of Terms relating to Substance Use Disorders.