JOUR Dec. 1 News 5. The truth about alcohol abuse among college students. George Comiskey, the associate director in the Center

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1 The truth about alcohol abuse among college students is hard to swallow. George Comiskey, the associate director in the Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery at Texas Tech, works with students who are struggling with addictions, including alcohol abuse. When we look at the demographics of who s using, Comiskey said, we see this spike with young people, usually starting in adolescence. Comiskey said he relates to his patients because he is a recovering alcoholic. The native of Kansas City, Mo., said he moved to Lubbock to escape harsh winter conditions. He earned his certificate to be an alcohol and drug abuse counselor and started working for the council of alcohol and drug abuse in Lubbock. Comiskey said part of his job was to take samples of drugs to fifth-grade classrooms and talk about drug abuse. We were educating users, Comiskey said. We didn t know a whole lot about prevention in those days. The Lubbock School District hired Comiskey in 1992 to work as a drug counselor for high school students. He said he learned about how young adults approach drugs and alcohol.

2 The kids are believing more and more, Hey, everybody is doing this. They just made it illegal for us because we re kids, Comiskey said. That s the mindset. Comiskey said the fact is, a human brain is not fully developed until age 25, and for every year a person drinks before age 25, he adds 10 percent to his chance of addiction. He said additionally, there is a 33 percent chance of addiction with genetic predisposition. Kim Hernandez of Canyon, Texas, was a music therapist at a psychiatric hospital for eight years. She worked with chemical addiction patients. Most people who are addicts, Hernandez said, acknowledge that it started in their teenage years. Hernandez, who graduated from West Texas A&M University with a double degree in music therapy and music education, said young adults do not have the chance to mature properly when they develop an alcohol addiction. To some degree, Hernandez said, their development stops at the point that they start drinking heavily. Hernandez said addiction is sometimes used as a coping mechanism for unknown mental illnesses. They start out self-medicating, Hernandez said, because maybe they are bipolar or they have depression.

3 Hernandez said alcoholism is a mental illness that changes your brain chemistry. She said it takes 18 months for a recovering alcoholic to feel normal pleasure without a chemical substance. Hayden Campsey, a junior finance major at West Texas A&M University, said he is concerned that one of his friends is becoming an alcoholic. I wonder if he will lose his potential, Campsey said, frowning, or drink and drive, possibly kill somebody, and go to jail. The Canyon, Texas, native said his mother advised him early in his childhood to drink in moderation. He said as part of a fraternity, he has friends who drink regularly, but none as much as his best friend. To me, binge drinking is not knowing when to stop, Campsey said. He doesn t know when to stop. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, binge drinking for men in the consumption of five or more drinks in two hours. Campsey said he does not know how to contact an alcohol rehabilitation center or if there is a rehabilitation program on his college campus. He said he believes it is the addict s responsibility to seek help.

4 I don t think you can fix the problem, Campsey said, unless you yourself realize it s a problem. Campsey said he has taken online assessments for school that address drug and alcohol abuse, but the effects of alcohol did not resonate with him until he witnessed them firsthand. According to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center website, online alcohol education assessments are required for all Tech students. Comiskey has worked for Tech since 2000 in the Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery. He said the program has increased in size over the past 25 years from 15 students to 100 students. According to the Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery website, there are multiple options available for students, including the 12-step program. Comiskey said the main focus of the 12-step program is to prevent relapse in his patients. Withdrawal is one of the things, Comiskey said, that we re most scared of. Comiskey said it takes seven days to 12 days for an addict to detox from a substance. He said during this time, the addict faces side effects, such as seizures and heart attack.

5 As a musical therapist, Hernandez said she used music as a relaxation technique for recovering addicts. She said it helped them find pleasure away from alcohol, which reduced the chance of relapse. Hernandez said the hardest part of treating alcohol abuse is convincing an addict to seek help. They don t reach out for help until they ve hit rock bottom. Hernandez said, Until they ve hit a point where they realize they re going to lose more than they re willing to lose.

6 Service journalism The Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery Formerly the Center for the Study of Addiction, the center added recovery to its program in The center is currently trying to develop a national recovering student database, which collects data from college students to assess the success of recovery programs. The center is one of 13 programs participating in a national recovering student database. There are recovery meetings every day of the week. Students attending the center have an average of a 3.4 GPA to a 3.6 GPA. The center has a 94 percent rate of success in recovery. Source: The Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery

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