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Leslie Gilmour

What Are the Effects of Drug Abuse on Academic Performance?

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 15 Aug 2017, 10:58

Drug abuse is a real problem in the school environment which affects students between the ages of 13 and 24. A recent survey funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that in 2016, nearly a quarter (23%) of 8th graders have consumed more than a few sips of alcohol, 9.4% have used marijuana, and 5% have used other illicit drugs. The use of legal and illegal substances persists throughout high school and college, increasing their risk for drug abuse. Due to these risks, parents, school faculty, and students should be aware what are the effects of drug abuse on academic performance.

The Most Common Drugs Abused By Students

Students abuse a wide range of legalized substances, illicit drugs, prescription medication, and over-the-counter drugs. Each affects student performance in a different way, mainly because of their unique chemical constituents. Let us take a look at the most common drugs abused by students, and how they affect students’ academic performance.


Alcohol is the most widely abused, legalized substance among students of all ages. Despite the recent decline of alcohol use in teenagers, the likelihood of abusing it continues to increase with age.

According to Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study supported by NIDA, 4% of 8th graders, 11% of 10th graders, and 17% of 12th graders were reported to binge drink within the last two weeks before the survey. For their age, this means consuming 3 or more drinks consecutively. 6 out of 10 admitted to consuming alcohol before finishing high school, and almost half (46%) of 12th graders said they’d been drunk at least once in their lifetime. Alcohol abuse is most prevalent in college campuses where 32% of students engage in binge drinking.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Academic Performance

Research shows that a person’s brain continues to develop until the early 20s. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that underage alcohol consumption may have negative effects on the brain’s development and alter its structure and function. As a result, learning problems may arise and a student’s academic performance will be less than optimal.

A study by the NIAAA shows college students who binge drink and consumed alcohol at least 3 times a week were 5 to 6 times more likely to miss a class and do poorly on a test or project. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes the same problems with underage and college drinking, citing poor or failing grades, higher absence rates, and memory problems as direct consequences to their school performance. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, 40% of academic problems and 28% of college dropouts every year are caused by alcohol.

There are several reasons why alcohol affects school performance. Jeff Georgi, coordinator of Duke University’s Alcohol and Addictions Program, cited that alcohol impairs memory and learning ability, and disrupts quality sleep which is necessary for creating long-term memories.  


As of 2016, the annual prevalence of marijuana among adolescents was 9.4% of 8th graders, 23.9% of 10th graders, and 35.6% of 12th graders. Meanwhile, as much as 4.6% of full-time college students used marijuana everyday in 2015.

Effects of Marijuana on Academic Performance

One study shows that marijuana use reduces a person’s capacity for learning, memory, and attention by suppressing the activity of neurons which are necessary for staying attentive and focused. The worst part is that it could take days to weeks for these effects to wear off. This is why students who smoke marijuana everyday suffer from reduced intellectual capacity most, if not, all of the time. Students who regularly smoked marijuana also had poorer educational outcomes and were less likely to graduate than those who didn’t smoke marijuana.

Prescription Drugs

Students abuse prescription medications for various reasons. For instance, stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin enhance brain activity, increase alertness and attention, and improve energy levels. Because of these, students usually take them to help with their studies or as a replacement for cocaine. Sedatives and tranquilizers like Ambien, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax are taken by students to help them relax since they slow down the brain’s function – much like the “date rape” drugs Rohypnol and GHB. Opioid analgesics such as Methadone, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin are usually abused in place of heroin since they mimic the drug’s effects.

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse on Academic Performance

While some prescription drugs are used by students to improve their performance in school, using them for non-medical reasons has generally been associated with academic problems. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2009) shows that 21% of high school students who received C’s, and  41% of high who received D’s and F’s for grades, took prescription drugs without a prescription. In comparison, only 13% and 19% of students who received A’s and B’s respectively were found to have abused prescription medication. 

Opioids are known to damage to the brain’s white matter, which reduces a student’s ability to decide and behave accordingly in stressful situations.

OTC Drugs

Over-the-counter medications are also being abused by students, particularly teenagers. Cough and cold medicines are popular because they contain dextromethorphan which causes a euphoric state, better known as a “high”. However, dextromethorphan causes memory loss and problems with focus which affect students’ academic performance.

Other Illicit Drugs

Some students abuse illicit drugs such as heroin, amphetamines, and cocaine. The main problem with illicit drugs is that they tend to be addictive. Drug addiction can significantly affect a student’s academic performance since it distracts them and keeps them from focusing on school. This is especially true if they experience withdrawal symptoms in-between use. 

Substance or drug abuse is a widespread phenomenon that begins as early as the 8th grade. Though numbers are declining for high school students, the incidence continues to worsen as students move up to college. Each drug will have different effects on a person’s body, but it can be agreed that no matter the substance, abuse will create problems in school. That is why it is very important for students and their peers to be fully aware what are the effects of drug abuse on school performance.

Most colleges and universities have a counselling service.  If you find yourself have any of the above problems, talk to them.

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Leslie Gilmour

How to Set Yourself Up For a Successful Interview

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Every student knows that sudden feeling of dread that comes after they leave their protective university bubble.  For many graduating students, this is where the real world begins.  One of your first tasks as a recent graduate is to hit the job market with a string of sent resumes, endless phone calls and just a little touch of groveling.  

Eventually, the time will come when an employer will be impressed by your tenacity and will set up an interview.  This is where the real work begins.  To ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, follow these simple tips to help you come one step closer to a career.

Be Prepared

Before you step foot into whatever work environment you are hoping to join, prepare yourself.  While it is a good motivator to always aim high, be realistic about the job you are applying for and make sure it matches your skills.  It is also important that you have some university training in the job you want, this is especially important if you majored in general studies.  For example; if you are looking for a job in the cosmetology field, one great way to prepare yourself is to take a short makeup course or workshop so that your potential employer will note that are willing to further your education.

Another great way to be prepared for an upcoming job interview is to do your research.  Study up on the company you are hoping will hire you so that you know what you are in for.  This is also a great way to impress potential employers.  The more knowledgeable you are in an interview will show them that you have great instincts and that you are truly interested in their business.

The Day Before

The day prior to your job interview is the day when you should lay all of your plans out.  It is better to have everything ready to go the day before so you are not rushing before your interview.  This also gives you time to relax and get your head in the game.  Carefully choose and lay out the clothes that you are going to wear.  Always dress better than you think you should, even if you are applying to a more casual work environment.  This will show your interviewer that you are professional and that you are taking the job seriously.  Don’t over dress as this may come off as too eager which is something you should avoid.  Finding the perfect balance between motivated and humble is critical.

Have your resume printed on cardstock or high-quality paper.  Even if you have already sent your resume in prior to the interview, it is a good rule of thumb to bring an extra with you.  You never know if they will ask you for your resume again.  To go the extra mile, you can even have some personal business cards on hand that list your contact information.  These little touches will help to ensure that potential employers will remember you.  The job market is a competitive field, so if there is an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from the pack, seize it. 

Interview Day

Wake up early.  Even if your interview is later in the day, start your day off right.  Mornings are the perfect time to set a precedent for the rest of your day.  It is important to take the time relax so that your head is in the right place.  Interviews are stressful and you will naturally get nervous, so find a way to expel that nervous energy and try to channel it into something positive.  This way you can walk into your interview confident and strong.  When you are confident in what you are saying, your interviewer will get pick up on it and it will set your interview off on the right foot.

Always get to the job interview early.  Try to plan on being there 10-15 minutes earlier than scheduled.  This shows that you are punctual and are taking the interview seriously.  Many times a great interview will be clouded by a tardy appearance.  If you know that your interview is during a time where traffic is high, prepare for this and adjust accordingly.  Try to avoid get there too early.  There is such a thing as being overeager and this can often read as desperate which is never a good look.

Be clear in the things that you say.  To make sure that your point is coming across, truly listen to the questions you are being asked.  Take a mental second to gather your thoughts before speaking.  This will show that you have great communication and listening skills which are two major components to being successful in your overall career.  The best way to show interest through words is to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer specific questions about the company as well as the job itself.  This will show them that you have a great interest in the job at hand.  Make eye contact.  Indirect eye contact is one way to show people that you are not confident or do not believe the words you are saying and this is the last thing you would want a potential employee to think of you. 

Don’t be afraid to be yourself.  While humor is often a defense mechanism; it is also a great way to showcase some personality.  Make sure that the humor stays on the appropriate side of the scale; the last thing you would want is for them to think that you will be an HR nightmare.  When leaving your job interview you should have just as strong of an exit as an initiation.  Shake their hand firmly and thank them for their time.  This is their last impression of you, so make it a good one.

Follow Up

Some people are wary about whether or not to follow up after a job interview.  As long as you are not hounding your interviewer, it is perfectly okay to follow up.  The best way to do this is to wait a day or two and send them an email thanking them for their time and stating how you look forward to hearing from them in the future.  Even if you don’t end up getting the job, they will remember you for reaching out politely to them.  This will help to keep you in their good graces in case another job opens up in that company.  The last thing you would want to do is burn any professional bridges before you ever even officially enter the job world.

Don’t Give Up

It isn’t always the case that you will land your first job right out of the gate.  While if it does happen, take the time to celebrate, but you should also never let a rejection slow you down.  Take each job interview as a lesson to be learned and apply that education to the next interview.  Over time you will find that each time you step foot in an interview room you are more confident and prepared than the last time.  As long as you stay motivated and vigilant, the only thing that is stopping you from landing the perfect job is you.  Good luck. 

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Leslie Gilmour

Why Spend an Erasmus Semester or Year Abroad

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There are so many benefits to spending a semester or year abroad. Not only will you get some amazing shots for your Instagram, but you’ll meet new people, eat new foods, and gain countless experiences that wouldn’t be possible if you were still in your home country. 

People always say “do it while you’re young” and this is a perfect example. If you don’t spend time abroad now, you will likely never get the chance. In a few years’ time, you’ll be graduated from uni, have a solid career, and be on your way to starting a family. 

Sure, you may have a part-time job now, or a significant other; but these aren’t good enough reasons to skip out on doing an Erasmus semester abroad. I spent one year at Vienna University while at university, this was before I went on to do more study with the OU. 

I picked Vienna simply because I could study in English, but for me, it was a great choice.  The summer before starting I walked the Camino de Santiago and met my now current other half who is from Prague.  Commuting between Vienna and Prague by train was easy. At the end of the year, I hired a courier service to move all my things back to Ireland, where I was based at the time.

Find Yourself

Going abroad gives you the opportunity to actually find yourself. Think about it; you won’t know anyone, and no one has any expectations of you. You can be whoever you want to be. If you have always been known as “Shy little Kate, from Bristol”, you can make an extra effort to be outgoing, and try new things. Even if you have never been much of a writer, now is a perfect opportunity to keep track of your thoughts.  Hold on to your memories by keeping a journal to reflect on your time, and the changes that occur while you’re away. Spending an Erasmus semester is a great alternative if you didn’t get to experience a gap year. 

Make Connections

Spending an Erasmus semester abroad can have many benefits; socially and professionally. You can make many work connections overseas that you would have never met if you didn’t take the leap. It isn’t rare to find that the company you worked for overseas to offer you a job when you graduate. You will also meet so many different people, from different walks of life, who knows what doors might open!

Better Yourself

Not only will you find yourself on your Erasmus semester abroad, you will also better yourself. There are ridiculous amounts of ways to spend your time overseas, and almost all the ways include a way to make yourself better, whether that be in a physical way, mental way, or to set you up for the future. 

You will pick up on new cultures and languages, not only in the new place that you’re living, but also anywhere else you’re living. You will be so close to other countries, it would be a shame not to save some money before hand to visit the neighbouring countries and see what they have to offer. You may find that you enjoy a new sport that is popular in your country, which will keep you fit and you’ll have a hobby for life. How great will it to say, “Oh yes, I picked up cycling in Denmark, there is just no other way to get around.” 

It Can Open Opportunities

By jumping into the deep end and moving to another country, you will have many opportunities open. For example, on your resume, employers will be very impressed by your ability to pick up and move to a country where you likely don’t know the language, or anyone living there. This will show prospective employers your courage, resistance and adaptability. Also, any odd jobs you pick up to make ends meet show your diversity of skills on a resume. 

Ask any HR executive, a popular question in interviews for any position will go something along these lines... “Tell us about a difficult situation you overcame, and how you managed to overcome it.” Instead of having no idea what to say, you will now have countless stories to show your fast-thinking and ability to overcome hardships. Maybe you’ll tell them the time you got sick in Spain, and the only doctor on call didn’t speak English, so you had to explain using your “Spanglish”. Or how you once ended up on the wrong train in France and ended up 100 kilometres from where you were meant to be with no cell phone! Living abroad will provide plenty of hardships, or uncomfortable situations, but your reaction to them is everything. 

Just remember, no matter how bad it is right now, it will probably be a funny story you’re telling your host family over dinner in a week or two. Not only are there professional opportunities, think about how many people you will meet! You’ll make tons of new friends, and maybe even a significant other. The best part is, you’ll be meeting people from all over the world, which provides the perfect opportunity to visit an exotic place later on- you have to visit your friends right?

Financial Support

This one may surprise you, but now is the perfect time to spend a semester abroad, because every Erasmus student receives a grant. How much will depend on your home country and where you’re planning to go, but every little bit helps. 

While it won’t cover your entire semester, it is certainly more than if you decide to plan a trip when you’re out of school. If you do an Erasmus work placement, you will receive the grant money AND a salary. Not only this, but it is so easy to make extra money in your spare time. Teaching English, some teacher training helps, interpreting or freelance translating is all ways to earn extra income as well. Lastly, depending on where you’re from, you may get a great exchange rate, or find that the cost of living is lower than in your home country.

So what are you waiting for?

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