The “Freshman-15″ isn’t the only thing to worry about

As I walked through Bed Bath & Beyond the other day I smiled at all the “decorate your college dorm” items that were on display.  The perfect comforter for the dorm, a stylish lamp that would light up study space, or the “starter” set of pots and pans that would heat up college classics like ramen noodles or mac and cheese.  I smiled reminiscing over my college days but also cringed over the dangerous fun that was a constant in the college world: binge drinking, experimentation with drugs, dangerous sexual escapades, and low self esteems.
I have heard the occasional story on 20/20 about the rise of binge drinking amongst college campuses but I haven’t paid particularly close attention to the statistics until now.  Since I joined the team at Brookhaven Retreat I have been disheartened by the number of college age women that seek support through our facility.  Even more shocking is that these women remind me of me and my friends when we were in college; they are beautiful, intelligent, and creative.  They have bright futures ahead of them yet easily fall victim to the atmosphere that is cultivated when you pair independence with exciting new adventures, and a lack of maturity that society does not expected nor required of you prior to the age of 22.
As we approach the back to school months, I brace myself for the Oct. and Nov. months.  Not because of the holidays, but because I fear that around that time our phones will be ringing off the hook with calls of concerns for young women who have been a victim of date rape, binge drinking, addiction and destroyed self esteem.  While it comforts me to know they have a place to go that can help them find their way back, it scares me this is not something we can prevent.  It almost seems inevitable in our society.
This norm we have dictated as a society is becoming increasingly dangerous, particularly to young women. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), reports that there was a 22% rise in binge drinking amongst college age women, which was nearly double the increase in college age men.  At the same time, 37% of college women said they drank on 10 or more occasions in the last month.
As common as “the drinking game” is in college, so is the drug scene.  While this isn’t a “new” thing, it is definitely becoming increasingly intense and dangerous as new drugs are continuously hitting the market and prescription drug abuse is at an all time high. A survey conducted by CASA of 2,000 students on 400 campuses, found a steep rise in abuse of prescription pain drugs by college students. Nonmedical use of narcotic drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin shot up 343% between 1993 and 2005; an alarming statistic.
As if binge drinking and drug abuse weren’t enough to worry about, young women entering into college need to also protect themselves from increasing rape statistics on campus, something hard to protect yourself from when you are intoxicated.  In fact, according to, one in five college women will be the victim of attempted or actual sexual assault during their college years, and 90 percent of these assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
With all these things to in constant occurrence, I can’t help but wonder what happens to these women’s self esteem.   It perplexes  me that while we are at college to gain knowledge that catapults our minds and spirits into a place of independence and maturity, it often does just the opposite for our own self image.  I remember getting my self esteem in college not from making an A on a paper or exam, but from whether or not I had a boyfriend or if the cutest guy in the bar wanted to flirt with me.  The sad part is that while now I can see how lame that mentality was, we all thought that way.  We all measured our worth internally the exact same way…and so did most girls on campus.   Sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take away from anyone’s college experience and I hate to preach when I used to be a member of the choir, but times are changing and if I can save one girl by speaking out about this epidemic, I am okay with annoying 100.
As I get older, I still think of myself as a fun and outgoing person.  I am no prude that is for sure, but I do wish I knew in college what I know now…and I know for a fact I am not alone in that.  I can’t go back and change that at this point in my life, but those who have not lived it yet do have an opportunity to protect themselves from it.
The reality is though that many of us have to touch the stove to know it is hot and thinking we are invincible is almost as common as breathing, so if you or someone you know finds themselves in a situation that seems to be a giant contradiction of what they were actually looking for, and they feel lost or broken, encourage them to give us a call.  The staff at Brookhaven Retreat is always available to help you get back on the right track and rebuild from the inner you - out.


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