When we talk about drugs, we do not only talk about narcotics but all addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine, etc.
At a certain point in our academic life, we have all stumbled upon some drug. Whether we were the one using it or if it was someone else. It is fair to say that drugs play a part in the four years of a student’s academic life. It may even continue further on as an occasional usage or an addiction.
Ronald Harvey, Ph.D. assistant professor of Psychology at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG), says: “The process of becoming addicted to almost any drug is a process of socialization, meaning that you are influenced by the people around you: peers, friends, family members, etc. It is a matter of learning.”
Harvey is not only a professor in AUBG, but he is a community psychologist who works with people who are recovering addicts after they have left treatment. Prof. Harvey helps them to reintegrate back into society.
“You learn things that are accepted in those groups and how they affect your body. Then there is a very strong physiological component to it that involves the reward systems to your brain and physiologically some of the effects that drugs have on the body,” he said.
His example was that you cannot learn something overnight, like history or psychology, and you cannot learn to be addicted to anything overnight.
For those who have taken or are taking drugs whether for relieving stress, peer pressure, or an experiment, there is a reason.
“Throughout my academic life, I have frequently been using tobacco and alcohol, as well as some marijuana on more delicate occasions. They helped me socialize and relax after having a rough time with a hard lecture or assignment or simply when I needed to keep myself busy or alone with my thoughts,“ one AUBG student said.
”The drugs that I take are alcohol and cigarettes. While I am smoking, I am left alone with my thoughts. For alcohol, I drink when I am with friends to relax. Also, when I am writing papers, assignments, or other things. I become more expressive. I even wrote my admissions essay drunk after a party,” said another.
“The things I am continuously using are alcohol, cigarettes, and weed. What I have tried and seldomly used are MDMA, Adderall, and cocaine. In the widely accepted drugs that are alcohol, cigarettes, and weed, for me, they are quite relaxing. I feel that they are a social lubricant. After a long day, two times a week, I can see myself having a glass of wine or a can of beer or a joint,” said a third.
“In general, most people try drugs because of peer pressure, and they want to be accepted in a group. The other reason, which applies more to college and university students, is because they are under a lot of stress, and they think that doing drugs, alcohol, or pot relieves that stress.“ Harvey said.
Several times a year, professor Harvey gives a lecture on how to relieve stress in the AUB100 course that is given to first-year students. In that class, professor Harvey talks about different ways to relieve stress.
“You can exercise, you can meditate, you can talk to your friends, but they are not as quick and reliable as having a couple of shots of rakia or a couple of hits of a joint or starting to smoke. Generally, the initial hit of alcohol, pot, or nicotine relieves stress, but in the long run, it increases stress. It makes you less functional, and you become more dependent on the drug.” Harvey said.
He also mentioned that having the occasional drink or a hit of a joint is fine, but the problem is when you start abusing them to relieve stress.
“If you have an occasional joint or an occasional beer that is totally fine, I am talking about the people who are using these substances because they are under a lot of stress and they need to do that. I say go to the gym and run around the track, play table tennis, do anything besides drugs. Meditation is a great way. The problem is that those techniques do not have an instant hit.”
One student is realistic about their relationship with drugs. “The main disadvantage was the addiction that I developed, for instance, not being able to go outside without a pack of smokes or not being able to proceed with my studies without weed.”
“You do not know your genetic make-up; you do not know your risk factor for becoming susceptible to becoming addicted to any drug or how your body would exactly react to it. You are literally gambling, hoping that your physiology will be resistant to the drugs. I have never met somebody who has experimented with drugs that did not say “I thought I could control it.” Everybody thinks that they can control it,” says professor Harvey.
In the instance that you have a friend or someone close to you who has a drug problem, professor Harvey’s advice is: “Love them, but encourage them to get help.”
If somebody thinks that they have a drug or a gambling problem, they can address it by contacting The Bulgarian National Drugs, Alcohol, and Gambling Helpline.
“AUBG students, the most precious thing that you have is your brain, take care of it,” Harvey said.
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