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There is a high cost for not implementing best practices in drug abuse prevention for students, campuses, and the larger community. Drug abuse can have many short- and long-term negative effects including physical and mental health problems, legal consequences, and impairment in many areas of a person’s life, from school to work and interpersonal functioning. The majority of students are attending institutions of higher education to not only further their education, but also to enrich their future employment opportunities. Drug abuse can interfere with a student’s ability to be successful in attaining this goal by disrupting their ability to finish course work, remain a matriculated student at their institution, and graduate.
Drug misuse can have lifelong consequences. A student with a drug arrest or policy violation may find their career choices limited, and may in fact be ineligible for employment in the career path they have chosen. Numerous careers have licensing standards in which drug misuse would be a disqualification. Many employers are also screening applicants and current employees for drug use and reviewing public social media accounts for indicators of substance use. Even if a student is not disqualified from a specific career field, in a competitive employment environment an employer may choose an applicant with no indication of drug abuse over an applicant who has a known history of drug abuse.
In addition to the negative impacts drug abuse can have on an individual, campus safety and law enforcement should also consider the negative effects on the entire community. Traffic crashes, violence, property crimes, and medical assist service calls increase when drugs are involved. For a campus community, drug abuse can have harmful effects on student success and retention, and thereby impact the overall health and resilience of a campus community.
Institutions of higher education must work diligently to creatively and proactively address the ongoing challenge of drug abuse. Drug abuse prevention programs on college campuses should be multidisciplinary and involve the entire campus and surrounding community environment in which students live and learn. Law enforcement and campus safety officials are critical members of the campus drug prevention coalition as first-hand witnesses to the negative impact of drug abuse. This coalition must work together to create a culture of responsible choices and help today’s youth understand the importance of preventing drug abuse. Most individuals do not become involved with substances solely on the basis of personal characteristics. Rather, they are influenced by factors in the environment such as the rules and regulations of social institutions; community norms; mass media messages; and the accessibility of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Effective prevention requires making appropriate modifications to the community at large.
Successful communities work together to gather data, evaluate trends, and make continual adjustments to improve community responses and services. Environmental strategies such as law and policy enforcement, prevention and social norm messaging, providing alternative activities, and increasing community connectedness can diminish the misuse and abuse of drugs in our communities, especially when employed in concert.
There are many resources available to assist communities in their drug abuse prevention efforts. Visit the NCCPS library and search by key word.
Kim Richmond is Director of the National Center for Campus Public Safety, a national clearinghouse of information and resources for campus officials funded by the Department of Justice. She facilitates the National Center’s mission of providing an array of services to campus public safety agencies, members of campus communities, advocacy organizations, professional associations, and government entities. Prior to joining the National Center, Kim spent over 30 years at the University of Central Missouri, retiring as Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety. In addition to Kim’s deep experience with leadership initiatives, collaborative efforts, and professional organization involvement, she was a generalist instructor with the University of Central Missouri National Police Institute for nearly 20 years and adjunct faculty at the University of Central Missouri Department of Criminal Justice. Kim received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and her master’s degree in security from the University of Central Missouri. She is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session 235.