Big Five for First Years (and beyond)

Many of you are planning for the start of your first semester of college this fall, which is a huge life transition even without the COVID-19 pandemic! With such a transition comes a lot of different changes that may impact your health and well-being as a college student – including the greater visibility of alcohol and other drugs.

While drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, we know that young adults tend to experience a higher rate of substance use as they age – and young adults who attend college tend to use more frequently than peers who do not attend college. While many folks who decide to use substances will not develop a substance use disorder, we know that 1 in 7 people over the age of 18 will have a problematic relationship with substances at some point in their life (1 in 4 when it comes to 18-24 year olds in college!).

Drinking and using drugs can be incredibly harmful to your development, and it is worth knowing the “Big Five” things to watch for if you or your friends do decide to drink. While having one of these does not mean you have a substance use disorder, if you do see these happening it is worth reflecting on your relationship with substances.

  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Did you know that one of the most common withdrawal symptom from alcohol is a hangover? That yucky feeling you may experience after a night of drinking is your body reacting to the level of alcohol in your system. When it has gotten used to the higher dose of alcohol, not having it in your system causes your body to react negatively. It also dehydrates you, which is why we often suggest drinking water between drinks if you chose to drink.
  • Rule Setting to Limit Use: While it may sound like a good idea to set boundaries, it is worth nothing we tend to set rules for ourselves when we know things aren’t good for us (“I’ll just have one cookie” as opposed to the box, or “I’ll only watch one more!” instead of binge watching that Netflix show). The same goes for alcohol. If you find yourself putting limits around when and how much you drink, and particularly if you find yourself not keeping to your boundaries, it may be worth exploring your relationship with drinking.
  • Sacrificing Activities: If you find yourself skipping things that once interested you because you have been going out frequently, your decision making around your use could negatively impact the things that you are so passionate about! Ohio State has so much to offer, and we hope that you take advantage of the endless opportunities instead of passing them up due to a hangover.
  • Role Fulfillment Failure: Using substances can be harmful to your relationships when used in excess. If you find yourself skipping classes, or calling off work due to your substance use, it is worth nothing. You may also be inclined to not share your drinking behaviors with family members, which can put a strain on your relationships.
  • Cravings/Compulsions to Use: Finally, if you find that alcohol or drugs are taking up more room in your mind than you are comfortable with, know that this could mean your body is becoming dependent on that substance.

While it is important to be aware of these signs, it is also important to know that over 30% of Ohio State’s students report that they have never used alcohol. If you choose to make the positive choice to not use as a first year student, you will find that you are not alone – even if the narrative of college may seem to say otherwise. Groups like the Ripple Effect help bring students together for substance free activities, and the Ohio Union Activities Board hosts many amazing events yearly.

And if you do decide to use and find yourself experiencing these warning signs, or you want to explore your relationship with alcohol, know that you are not alone either. The Collegiate Recovery Community is here to offer supports to students who are in or seeking recovery from substance use, and the Student Wellness Center has many services to help you explore your use.

Wellness Assessment 2018-2019