UNCA staff help students with substance abuse

Caitlin Doherty
Contributor
cdoherty@unca.edu

Drug and alcohol abuse can be dangerous and scary for college students. UNC Asheville provides students with several resources from both campus police and Residential Education in an attempt to lessen this danger.

“What we see here on campus is pretty typical of what you see among all college campuses,” said Eric Boyce, assistant vice chancellor for public safety.

In the last two years, the number of student conduct referrals involving alcohol increased slightly while referrals involving drug offenses decreased, Boyce said.

Though the numbers seem low, Boyce said they remain a concern. UNCA’s rate of drug and alcohol offenses are similar to other schools.

“The numbers are pretty consistent with what we see across a national landscape,” Boyce said.

Boyce said increasing awareness and teaching students the consequences of abuse can help prevent it.

“There’s a lot of programming to help students increase their awareness about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse,” Boyce said.

Also, understanding the effects of what binge drinking can do to one’s body can help students, Boyce said.

“For every shot of whisky, 4-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce beer, it takes your body about an hour to process it. When students are aware of how the body processes out the alcohol then they can be more aware and know. Don’t drink a six-pack in an hour,” Boyce said.

If a student is found less than 1.5 ounces of drugs, campus police has an agreement with the district attorney’s office where they can still live on campus and be referred to Residential Education, Boyce said.

When students have multiple violations, it increases the likelihood of officers taking more enforcement action, including a citation and possible arrest. Boyce said more serious drugs result in a felony and the student will undergo the criminal process.

Students caught with alcohol who do not need medical attention are referred to Residential Education. If they do need medical attention the student will receive help as needed.

“If they need medical attention North Carolina has an amnesty law, which means that if you need help you can call for help. The person who called and the person who needs help won’t get in trouble,” Boyce said.

Residential Education manages the residence halls, said Melanie Fox, associate dean of students. The staff ensures students have a safe and comfortable environment to live in.

The group includes professional and student staff, Fox said. They get to know the residents and open themselves as a resource, providing guidance to students in need.

Fox said drug and alcohol abuse does not seem to be huge problem on UNCA’s campus.

“Any type of substance use that can be considered addictive at some point, and also cause problems for a person’s education would be seen as problematic. If you think about alcohol use, I would say we’re really low as it relates to other campuses,” Fox said.

The low amounts of alcohol abuse could come from not having a football team and not having large groups of fraternities and sororities, Fox said.

“Marijuana is a common problem for us and we might be a little higher here than some of the other North Carolina campuses in terms of marijuana use,” Fox said.

Harder drugs are just a consistent problem across the state, she said.

Students caught with drugs or alcohol for the first time will be referred to Residential Education. There, they go through an effective decision-making course, a one hour program on campus. Students also pay a fee which goes toward the program. Additionally, they take a StrengthsQuest inventory, a personality inventory, then meet up with their community director. Fox said sometimes students will do community service as well.

Second or third time offenses build on each other.

“We don’t get a lot of second or third time offenses. Honestly, we don’t get many first time offenses either,” Fox said.

In order to prevent drugs and alcohol on campus, UNCA has a Campus Assessment Response Education and Crisis team.

“CARE and Crisis is a team of members of the campus from different disciplines. Campus police has a person on there, we have someone from OneStop, we have our dean of students, myself and there’s a few other people like health and counseling,” Fox said.

CARE and Crisis reaches out to students with difficulties and focuses on one-on-one interactions when helping students deal with substance abuse, providing them with resources and just being there for them, Fox said.

In the classes, students will share their stories which can help inspire other students, Fox said.

“Those real-life experiences, seeing them through the lens of someone that you can relate to is some of the better ways to get education out there,” Fox said.

Melanie Fox, associate dean of students, said residential education
tries to make the campus a good environment for the students. Photo by Caitlin Doherty.

Jennifer Sanchez-Flack, assistant professor of health and wellness, said there is a problem with drinking on campus. Sanchez-Flack is new to the school and noticed a problem.

“Given that this is a college campus, I’m sure that there are issues, particularly around binge drinking,” Sanchez-Flack said.

Being addicted to something can affect a person mentally and physically, Sanchez-Flack said.

“If you’re suffering from addiction there comes a whole host of issues. You’re constantly depending on drugs or alcohol to get through the day, you can’t complete daily tasks if you don’t have access to those substances,” Sanchez-Flack said.

Addiction to drugs can affect someone physically as well.

“With physical health you go through addiction, cravings. I you drink too much you’re constantly feeling hungover every day and that can affect your school and work performance,” Sanchez-Flack said. “You could develop different diseases like cirrhosis, and depending what type of drug you use you can be at risk for certain diseases as well.”.

The risk of drug and alcohol abuse can be different for college students compared to adults. Sanchez-Flack said there are a lot of social norms on campus, like students who abuse Adderall to study and parties where people binge drink.

“For adults it’s different because you’re not exposed to this tight-knit community like you are on a college campus. Like in your dorms, it could be happening where you’re actually living, whereas when you’re an adult you could be living alone,” Sanchez-Flack said.

When students get stuck in the loop of addiction they should seek help. They should find someone they trust to talk to, or to bring with to appointments to make it less scary, Sanchez-Flack said.

Students can also occupy themselves with different activities, she said.

“If you know at a party everyone’s going to be drinking alcohol and you don’t feel comfortable, try to find a different activity to do,” Sanchez-Flack said. “I know it can be hard, but if you find friends who don’t do it that can definitely help.”

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