College Stress: Are All College Students Majoring In Chemistry?

by Doc Orman, M.D.


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When I was in college, I was a chemistry major.  That was back in the late 1960s, when being a chemistry major meant that you actually studied the science of chemistry.  And there weren’t many of us who chose this as our major field of study.

In contrast, today the vast majority of college students seem to be majoring in chemistry. By this I mean, they ingest just about every chemical substance known to man.  Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, Adderall, PCP, Ecstasy, cocaine, energy drinks, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, etc.—there seems to be no end in sight to both the variety and frequency of chemical substances that college students regularly consume today.

Relief From The Stress Of College Life

Some of this chemical use and experimentation is simply thrill-seeking behavior.  But a significant percentage of it is either consciously or unconsciously motivated by a desire to cope with stress.

Using chemical substances, like alcohol, cigarettes, food, illegal drugs, or even prescription medications is a time-honored strategy for coping with stress. The fact that it is time-honored, however, doesn’t mean that it’s ideal.  It just means that it works, at least in the short-run, and that a lot of people tend to use it.

But most people eventually find out that relying heavily upon chemical coping strategies for dealing with stress can have serious adverse effects.  It can result in addictions, health problems, accidents, psychological illness, and even death.

Symptoms vs. Causes

The major problem with all chemical coping strategies (and many non­-chemical stress management techniques) is that they deal almost exclusively with just the symptoms of our stressful problems in life.  They don’t help us better understand or deal with the underlying causes of our day-to-day difficulties.

Yes, chemical coping strategies can make us feel better temporarily, but when the effects of these substances wear off, we’re right back where we started from.  So our stress is likely to happen over and over again, along with our continued need to turn to chemical coping solutions.

So, while chemical use is commonplace on college campuses today, as it also is in the general population, it’s never the best strategy for coping with stress.  Learning how to deal with stress without needing to rely upon chemical coping strategies should be one of the primary skill sets that all college students acquire, long before they graduate.

See related posts from this Stress Relief Blog:

Stress Relief Strategy #2: Deal With Causes, Not Just Symptoms

Internal vs. External Causes

Stress Mastery vs. Stress Management 

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