I saw a meme the other day that made me both chuckle and think about my habits during my first semester as a graduate student. It was from a fellow classmate after we finished with our last final and it said, “Caffeine, you’re on the bench. Alcohol, suit up.” I’m sure it was funny to the majority of my classmates. It made me reflect on my study habits and my cycles of “self-medicating.” Both caffeine and alcohol are indeed drugs, legal ones, but too many people have developed a dependency on them.
I can remember a few tests this semester where I had more caffeine than I should have while studying. I knew skipping coffee on any day would make me feel unproductive. I associated mental arousal with that irresistible hot black beverage. I even went on a caffeine detox for a week and I felt horrible during the first couple of days.
After those tests were done, I often found myself wanting some sort of alcoholic beverage just to relax. I didn’t want to go to parties and binge drink my brain away, but rather enjoy the effects of a drink or two in solitude. See, my mind was so overstimulated from the caffeine that the depressive effects of alcohol seemed to balance it out. I needed one drug to counteract the effects of another. I thought I was being smart, only having one or two drinks on Friday evening. My mindset was “I’m old enough to legally drink; I’m doing so responsibly, there is nothing wrong here.”
Many will argue that caffeine and alcohol are fine in moderate amounts and in appropriate situations; however, I do believe we need to get out of the vicious substance controlled undulation of our state of minds. Instead of relying on caffeine to heighten our senses, we should be altering our lifestyles in a manner that brings more balance. Instead of unwinding with a drink after a week of taxing our minds with caffeine and dull textbooks, we should be seeking out positive and enriching experiences outside school. I’m not going to be giving up on my green tea anytime soon, but I will avoid using it solely as a means to be more attentive.
Many of us have had days where we were over loaded with homework, having fights with our parents and friends, or just feeling unenthusiastic. Sometimes we are able to break the depressing cycle and focus on the great things that are happening in our lives, other times we turn to things like alcohol or drugs to help us cope with life.
Studies have shown that the misuse of prescription medications in college students is on the rise. Many students are using prescribed medications (like Adderall, which is a stimulant prescribed to patients who have ADHD, Xanax, which is a sedative prescribed to patients who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, and Vicodin, which is a morphine prescribed to patients who have severe pain) to feel better and “manage” their daily lives. When prescribed by a doctor for a certain use, the medicine can be beneficial to a person, but when a person starts overdosing on a medication and taking it with other drugs and/or alcohol the effects can be deadly. Abusing prescription medication can lead to organ damage, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and even death. When students start abusing medications their chances for becoming binge drinkers, misusers of drugs like marijuana and cocaine, and drug addicts increases dramatically. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the misuse of prescription drugs.
One of the best ways to relieve stress is by exercising. In the words of Elle Woods from Legally Blond, “I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” Happy people are also more able to cope with the struggles of life. One other thing that a person could do is seek-out counseling services. Most college campuses, like ours, offer free counseling to students who may be feeling stressed, dealing with medication abuse, and dealing with alcohol abuse. Although it may be hard to step out of your comfort zone, the benefits of living a healthy, drug free lifestyle are definitely worth it.
More information on prescription abuse can be found at http://www.talkaboutrx.org