USA: Alcohol, Other Drug Use Hinder Academic Performance
Alcohol and other drug use hinders academic performance in U.S. universities, according to a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
According to the report there are two major ways in which alcohol and other drug use hinder academic performance of students.
- Alcohol and other drug use can have acute and at times long-term impact on an individual’s ability to process information.
The cognitive effects of substance use include impeded learning and memory, which are highly likely to affect academic performance.
For example, students who use cannabis might struggle to absorb information during their classes and experience difficulties to recall what they learned. Researchers found that deficits in verbal learning took two weeks to return to pre-cannabis use levels, deficits in verbal working memory took three weeks, and attention deficits were still present at three weeks.
And these studies address only lower potency cannabis, while many young adults are using cannabis with much higher potency.
- Immediate perceived rewards of substance use places the person at risk for more regular or compulsive use.
This process can preempt the brain’s reward system. It means that students using any substance, run the risk of having other activities and relationships that were once important to them lose their value. Focusing on academic pursuits – which might be challenging but carries longer-term rewards – becomes more difficult and less ‘meaningful’ if a person is engaging in substance use, leading students to reshuffle priorities.
In one study of more than 40,000 students at 28 institutions, students who consumed alcohol four or more times during a two-week period were 10 to 16 percentage points less likely to have an “A” average than those who abstained from alcohol.
The way forward
There are evidence-based practices which can provide solutions for alcohol and other drug use problem in colleges. The key is to not put academic perfomance second to use of psychoactive substances. To achieve this, institutions have the following options:
- Emphasize academic purpose,
- Provide access to substance-free activities,
- Change the prevailing alcohol and other drug use norms in college.
As examples of success, University of Vermont’s multi-pronged prevention initiative has seen a decline by half in the number of students needing medical intervention after consuming alcohol. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, high-risk alcohol use declined by 21% following a “re-norming” campaign.
While some institutions provide a road map for success, many others view substance use as an inevitability, or as an overwhelming challenge that they cannot address.
If the conversation about campus substance use can be reframed around academic performance, however, there is potential for even greater change,” writes Michael Poliakoff, Ph.D., is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, as per Campus Drug Prevention.