Academic Stress and Substance Abuse

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The school year comes packed with numerous stresses, and as the semester continues marching forward, these stresses can become more and more prevalent. Tests, quizzes, and one’s own academic goals can cause a great deal of anxiety, with many students looking for any way to alleviate these feelings.

Unfortunately, this can also lead to a dangerous relationship with addictive substances, compromising one’s health while inhibiting one’s ability to strive towards academic success.

The Stresses of the Academic World

School comes packaged with a plethora of stresses. This can be true for an individual navigating high school and preparing for college, a student already in college adjusting to new educational expectations, or an adult returning to an academic facility to further their education.

Most commonly, looming tests, midterms, or final exams are the source of this impending anxiety. However, test anxiety may also only be the tip of the stresses one’s academic career can present.

Waiting on graded papers and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing how one is performing can also be stressful. This can leave an individual feeling unsure where they may need to focus their studies or make it difficult to determine how prepared they are for the tests ahead. These grades can also lead to unwanted feelings of judgment, as if one’s efforts and determination can be boiled down to a letter grade on a paper or test.

Lastly, the feeling of academic competition can be its own source of anxiety. Students may put a large stake in academic titles, such as valedictorian. Even just trying to ensure one’s grades are sufficient to permit them to continue holding their place in clubs or on the sports team can be stressful as well.

These stresses can be widely varied, and it is expected that these stresses build in the back of one’s mind, dictating many of one’s decisions. All of these stresses are incredibly difficult to process. An individual may want to find a way to step back from it all, with the use of addictive substances being a quick way to try to relax.

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse

There are two significant ways in which students may approach addictive substances. For some, turning to addictive substances is used to escape stress and anxiety. Alcohol or drugs may be used to take the edge off their minds or otherwise avoid confronting their pressures.

However, this approach often has long-term effects on an individual, instilling a dangerously positive view of alcohol or drugs that can quickly develop into addiction if left unaddressed. One’s pervasive use can continue to impact an individual’s health while counterproductively increasing feelings of anxiety. Consistent use of these substances can also compromise one’s academic performance in the first place, setting a precedent for a dangerous and destructive cycle.

Secondly, an individual may look to substances to help them perform better in an academic setting. This is commonly approached with the use of Adderall or Mydayis — drugs that are typically used to treat ADHD. However, these drugs can be used and abused by anyone who believes that the extra focus is necessary to further one’s academic career.

Despite the intended effects, these drugs have several adverse side effects — from loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness to even insomnia — ensuring that the test an individual was studying all night for is then taken in a state of exhaustion. Alongside these adverse effects, these drugs are also amphetamines, making them easily abused. They can quickly cause the development of dependence or addiction, further compromising one’s academic career.

Managing Academic Stress 

There is no magic way to make school completely devoid of stress. However, there are programs available that can help students explore healthier ways to balance the inevitable pressures of the academic sphere with their personal lives. An individual does not have to choose between their health in recovery and their academic career.

Outpatient programs exist as a way to connect with others balancing their own daily lives with their recovery, and these programs can be incorporated around an academic schedule. Afternoon or evening sessions with peers can help individuals explore time management techniques to balance how long an individual is set in front of a textbook without a break. Explorations of identity and self-care outside of studies can also provide a healthy outlet for stress relief.

Despite their temptation, addictive substances can have adverse long-term effects on an individual, and their effects last much longer than a single test. As the academic year continues to roll on and tests and deadlines creep up, it is essential to monitor one’s coping strategies to deal with this stress. Doing so can ensure that one’s health is not compromised due to academic pressures. Communicating with supports and professionals is instrumental in maintaining a healthy balance for oneself throughout the school year.

Academia is a stressful path for everyone, and there can be a seemingly endless stream of new assignments, tests, and expectations set upon each person throughout their academic career. At Avalon Malibu, located in Malibu, California, we understand the stresses faced throughout the different levels of schooling and how they can continue to affect one’s life outside of the academic sphere, impacting one’s home life, family, and work schedule. We are ready to help you take the first step in managing your use of addictive substances and processing the stress associated with your academic expectations. Your time with us is personalized at every stage of your journey, from detox to intensive outpatient care, with individual and group therapy, art, music, psychotherapy, education, and more programs available to help you address your unique needs and goals. For more information on how we can help you, call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992.

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