By SUSANNA PENFIELD
A recurring column exploring various statistics related to sexual wellness, mental health, and substance use at Colorado College, brought to you in collaboration with the Wellness Resource Center.
This is the percentage of Colorado College students who reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Taken at face value, this statistic may not seem immediate cause for alarm. However, though a large portion of this campus is of legal drinking age, and are themselves responsible for personal engagement with alcohol and drinking culture, this particular fact is just one piece of a larger pattern that has emerged at CC.
At the time the National Campus Health Assessment Survey was administered:
• 85 percent of CC students reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days. 64 percent of students nationwide reported the same.
• 16 percent of CC students reported taking stimulants (Adderall, for example) not prescribed to them. 5 percent of students nationwide reported the same.
• 10 percent of CC students used sedatives not prescribed to them. 3 percent of students nationwide reported the same.
• 9 percent of CC students had used cocaine. 1 percent nationwide reported the same.
The trend is pretty extreme. Regardless of the substance, CC students are engaging with drugs at higher rates than average for U.S. college students. The significance of this pattern is applicable to understanding many of the ways in which we, as students, undergo the “CC experience.” Thus far, this column has primarily focused on issues of sexual violence, but, assault is only one manifestation of the ways in which elevated substance use can impact this campus.
Statistics — such as the ones listed above — will help us to unpack a host of consequences, from mental health at CC to individual academic performance. Insight into substance use also helps to reveal the implications of one substance from that of another.
While it is impossible to draw direct correlations between reported substance use and student action in many of these arenas, the NCHA survey provides a foundation that will inform initiatives aimed at addressing substance complicity with markers of negative college experiences. However, I hope that ultimately this examination will push members of the CC community — students, staff, and faculty alike — to question whether substances are the cause of these markers or merely a symptom.
This pattern may be the most obvious, but is it the most telling?