By Kelly Corbett
Social Media Editor
Ping-pong balls bounce into cups of beer, tiny glasses of liquor are consumed in one gulp and the absence of class in the morning welcomes late-night laughter. Students are grooving to loud music with logically-lacking sentences flowing from their mouths.
“I’ll never drink again,” they’ll say, as they roll over in bed haunted by their headaches the next day. But will they actually?
This is college. There is no longer a parental voice and watchful eye to reprimand every misdemeanor, and unfortunately, students are struggling to put down the red Solo Cup, among other substances.
In response to this climb in substance and drug abuse, the College welcomes the Lion’s House to campus this semester, as well as an array of drug- and alcohol-free late-night activities.
Lion’s House, a recovery house adjacent to campus for substance abuse, is “for people that want to give themselves the best college experience and knows that means being drug and alcohol free,” said Christopher Freeman, the community recovery supervisor of the TCNJ Clinic, which sponsors the Collegiate Recovery Program at the College.
Currently, each Lion’s House is able to hold five students, as well as a mentor. It costs the same as other oncampus housing and offers the same basic amenities. Residents abide by the same rules as other dorm-style living on campus, with the exception of not being able to have guests over that are under the influence.
But what exactly triggered the opening of the Lion’s House? Are college students drastically downing too much alcohol?
According to a national survey, 31 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol abuse disorder (whether mild or moderate). In a 7,152 student school such as the College, that would mean over 2,000 kids are sipping just a little too much on that dancing juice. Furthermore, 6 percent of the nation’s college students meet the criteria for alcohol dependence — defined as “the people that are unable to stop, they crave it and they aren’t functioning the way they should be,” Freeman said. That would amount to about 420 students at the College.
While many students may brush off a peer’s poor performance in class as laziness, he or she may be suffering from something much bigger.
“Someone who doesn’t have a substance use disorder can put down a drink and say, ‘Hey, I’m fine,’” Freeman said.
However, those who are alcohol dependent battle to plop the cup down — they crave alcohol.
“Ever go driving or walking by a Burger King and you smell it and crave it?” Freeman asked, comparing the fast food cravings to the alcohol cravings many students suffer from. “It changes the brain.”
And while this data reflects colleges and universities nationwide, what is actually true of the College’s grounds?
According to Campus Police facts provided on a flyer created by the TCNJ Clinic, between September 2013 and May 2014, there were 358 alcohol/drug policy violations, 113 on-campus alcohol/drug arrests and 40 emergency room visits due to alcohol/drugs. Furthermore, there were 82 alcohol related emergencies where TCNJ EMS responded to residential halls or other areas of campus. Lastly, there were three academic suspensions due to alcohol/drugs and two student deaths due to alcohol/drug use (it is not known if these occurred on-campus or not).
That’s why the Lion’s House is such a significant addition to the College this year for many students. There are only 112 collegiate recovery programs currently operating or launching in the country, according to the Transforming Youth Recovery 2014 Survey Report published by The Stacie Mathewson Foundation. The College is fortunate enough to have not just a Collegiate Recovery Community, but also a Recovery House for students to apply to live in.
The Recovery House has an on-going application and accepts those students “that are really in recovery and have been through treatment,” said Nancy Scott, director of the TCNJ Clinic.
Often those suffering from a substance abuse disorder feel isolated and alone, according to Freeman. The Lion’s House is a place where students can combat all their cravings and triggers together, alongside their mentor, a graduate student who will hold house meetings and always steer the housemates toward better choices.
Any student struggling at the College is welcome to apply, and there is no time limit on how long they can stay in the house.
CAPS also offers services to those struggling with substance abuse. However, because CAPS is expected to serve the whole student body, it can only grant students a couple individual sessions. For those students seeking more one-on-one help, the TCNJ Clinic, located in Forcina Hall 124, is an alternate option.
In addition to the Lion’s House, there are also a variety of late night activities sponsored by the Collegiate Recovery Community for students to have fun without alcohol or other drugs present.
“One of the problems we have in Ewing is there isn’t much to do,” Freeman said. “The default activity is a party.”
With this in mind, the Collegiate Recovery Program has coordinated several late night activities including a “Back to Basics” night where students participated in old-school games such as dodgeball, kickball or foursquare.
There have also been “Minute to Win It” games where students would have 60 seconds to complete a random task such as blowing a feather into a bowl.
These activities are open to all students and promote the message that one does not need alcohol or other substances to enjoy themselves.
“We want them to graduate to different living arrangements or maybe even become a housing advisor,” Scott said. “We definitely want TCNJ to be a caring community.”