Substance abuse on the rise

Drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise across the nation, and the consequences are steep: For the first time in history, more deaths were caused by drug use than by motor vehicle fatalities in 2009, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To counteract the problem, Vanderbilt provides a variety of safety nets to help students with substance abuse addiction.


The Statistics: Alcohol

From the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association:

  • Among full-time college students in 2010, 63.3 percent were current drinkers, 42.2 percent were binge drinkers and 15.6 percent were heavy drinkers.

From the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • In 2008, 1 out of 3 hospitalizations for overdoses in young adults involved excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Alcohol overdoses alone caused 29,000 hospitalizations, combined alcohol and other drug overdoses caused 29,000, and drug overdoses alone caused another 114,000. The cost of these hospitalizations now exceeds $1.2 billion per year just for 18-24-year-olds.

Liquor law violations at Vanderbilt

  • 2008: 162
  • 2009: 152
  • 2010: 177


The Statistics: Drugs

From the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association:

  • In 2010, the rate of current use of illicit drugs was 22 percent among full-time college students aged 18 to 22.

Among young adults:

  • The rates were 18.5 percent for marijuana, 5.9 percent for nonmedical use of psychotherapeutic drugs, 2 percent for hallucinogens and 1.5 percent for cocaine.

From the Center of Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Drug-related deaths have doubled in the past decade, with one drug-related fatality every 14 minutes.
  • There were at least 37, 845 drug-related deaths in 2009
  • The rise in prescription pain and anxiety drugs is one of the major causes of the growing death toll. The number of deaths caused by prescription drugs is higher than those caused by heroin and cocaine combined.
  •  In contrast with the national trend, the number of drug/narcotic violations at Vanderbilt has remained relatively stable from 2008-10, with a slight reduction in violations in 2010.

Drug/narcotic violations at Vanderbilt:

  • 2008: 141
  • 2009: 142
  • 2010: 115


How you can get help

Vanderbilt offers a variety of programs and resources to help students recover from substance abuse problems. Because some students in distress may have difficulty confronting their situations, students are encouraged to help friends in distress seek out help.


Psychological Counseling Center
The Psychological Counseling Center provides mental health services for students who require long-term care. Psychologists and other counselors at the Center help with issues such as: depression, eating and body image, stress, grief, study/test-taking problems, academic major or career indecision.

Dorothy Gager, alcohol and drug counselor at the Vanderbilt Psychological & Counseling Center, provides counseling for students who feel that they might be suffering from substance addiction. Students can contact Gager for a self-referred alcohol and drug assessments.

Gager addressed the fear expressed by some students that they would be reported after they sought to seek help.

“Sometimes they worry that I will report them to Conduct, but that would be a violation of their right to confidentiality; I cannot disclose the fact that someone has come to see me without their written permission,” Gager said.

For more information, go to the PCC website.

Student Health
If students are concerned about withdrawal symptoms, they can go to Student Health. Alcohol and prescription medications of the benzodiazepine family (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, e.g.) carry the possibility of medically dangerous withdrawal.  Withdrawing from most other drugs can be unpleasant but not medically dangerous, and there are often ways to decrease the symptoms under medical supervision.

For more information, see the Student Health page on Vanderbilt’s website.

Vanderbilt Recovery Support
Vanderbilt Recovery Support is a student-led support group, organized under the National Alliance on Mental Health, that helps students to achieve psychological wellness. The VRS offers a weekly 1-hour support group for Vanderbilt students in all stages of the recovery from substance abuse/dependence.

For more information e-mail or call (615) 343-8772.

Office of Housing and Residential Education
Randy Tarkington, senior director of Residential Education, said he encourages students to reach out to their RA or Area Coordinator if they do not know how to begin the substance abuse recovery process.

“Learning how to assist students who may be struggling with drug use is part of RA training. Students need to understand that if they reach out, our role is not punitive at all. It is to assist them in getting to the resources available on campus,” Tarkington said.

For more information, go to the Residential Education page on Vanderbilt’s website.

Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention
The Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Education provides information and encourages students to make healthy lifestyle choices about alcohol and other drugs. 


For more information, see Vanderbilt’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention page.


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