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Forced recovery

Rehab spells relief for some, irritation for others

 by Tara Brite  published on Thursday, March 24, 2005

<em>ON THE COVER</em>/issues/arts/692529
ON THE COVER
 
<em>DANIELLE PETERSON / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>Industrial design senior Daren Nybo lives to ski.  When he's not working in the Architecture Building, he's hitting the slopes.
/issues/arts/692529
Danielle Peterson
DANIELLE PETERSON / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Industrial design senior Daren Nybo lives to ski. When he's not working in the Architecture Building, he's hitting the slopes.
 

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Experiencing withdrawals, going to group meetings and confronting demons.

Rehab isn't exactly what the college-aged population dreams about, but it often becomes a necessity, whether enrolling is a personal decision or a court order.

This week, SPM talks to people who were forced to join rehab by the courts and whose lives have been irretrievably altered because of substance abuse.

Against their will

Unlike those who join rehab because they recognize they have a problem and are ready to confront it, others join substance abuse classes because they have no other choice.

History freshman Frank Chiaramonte says police caught him with marijuana last April in Utah, where he used to live.

Hunched in a corner outside of the Barrett Honors College Center Complex, protecting his hookah from the wind, Chiaramonte says the court sentenced him to a drug abuse evaluation, which included three months of weekly classes and urine tests.

Since he was moving to Arizona to attend ASU, he contacted the Treatment Assessment Screening Center office in Mesa. He says he took his first urine test in November.

"I had dirty urine," he says, taking a puff of hookah. Chiaramonte was referring to smuggling urine he knew was clean into the testing center.

In preparation for the urine test, he packaged his friend's urine in a toothpaste tube.

He says despite his efforts, the trick did not work.

"They directly watch your genitalia while you pee," he says. "So I got caught cheating."

Because of the incident, his three months of weekly drug tests and substance abuse classes turned into four weeks, and because of winter break, it became five weeks.

Chiaramonte says he has to pay $20 for every class and $16 for every drug test, totaling $180.

"I get off on April 18. Just in time for April 20," he says with a laugh. "I'm just kidding. I'm clean."

Political science freshman Brandon Casey has a similar story.

ASU police caught the Palo Verde resident smoking marijuana.

"One of my buddies hadn't smoked in a long time, so we went over there, and the cops came," he says outside of Palo Verde on a cool March evening with the glare of the half hidden moon shining down on him.

He is smoking a cigarette, and smoke leaves his mouth with each word.

Casey began experimenting with drugs and alcohol after high school.

For him, it began with a trip to Europe he took the summer after his senior year of high school, when he smoked marijuana for the first time in Amsterdam, where the substance is legal.

The consequences of smoking seemed distant to Casey until that night in October when he and his friend got caught.

Casey says he and his friend were arrested that night for a Class 6 felony, but spent very little time in the police station.

"Three hours later, we were out and smoking cigarettes in the parking lot," he says, flicking his cigarette butt on the cool, concrete.

Casey says he had two options regarding his punishment for the crime. The first was to pay a large fine and the second was to join an Arizona diversion program called the Treatment Assessment Screening Center. He says the center's program consists of paying a smaller fee, approximately $550, attending a six-hour class on substance abuse and taking drug tests weekly until there is no marijuana in the system, then randomly for 60 to 90 days.

Casey chose to go to the center because after completion of the program, the felony would be wiped off of his record.

"It's kind of a free ride kind of thing," he says.

For Casey, the program seemed like no big deal and the class was simple, similar to driving school for people who have received a traffic violation, and the fine was manageable, because of the extended time period he received to pay it.

The drug test, however, created problems for him, he says, shaking his head.

"It takes some people longer to process marijuana than other people," he says. "It took me a month to get it out of my system, which was out of their whole time frame thing."

Casey says he was kicked out of the program for failing to pass this last drug test.

"Right now, I'm just waiting for the letter from the county attorney," he says nonchalantly. "And that's it."

Casey says the letter most likely will order him to perform community service, which he says he would not mind.

"I could just go to a baseball game and help out or something," he says, the speed of his voice picking up. "Or help out the Boy Scouts. I like Boy Scouts."

But because he failed the program, the arrest will most likely end up on his record as a misdemeanor, he says.

This does not faze Casey too much, though. He says there are plenty of things he could do after college, like become a salesman.

"Shit happens and then there's tomorrow," he says.

Destructive paths

Unlike the common misconception that a specific personality type is prone to addiction, there are typically three primary pathways that lead to dependence on a substance, says Laurie Chassin, an ASU psychology professor specializing in studying adolescents with problem behaviors including substance abuse.

The first is an antisocial or deviance-prone pathway, typically associated with early substance abuse and addiction.

Chassin describes a young adult on such a pathway as behaviorally uncontrolled, impulsive, sensation-seeking, trouble-making and not bound by social norms. Such a person can easily become addicted to drugs when there is a lack of parental guidance and when that person surrounds him or herself with peers who do drugs or drink alcohol.

The second pathway is known as the stress and coping pathway, Chassin says. People on that pathway tend to have problems controlling their emotions and often experience depression and anxiety, which leads them to seek help through self medication.

Chassin says the third pathway has to do with the effects of a substance on a person.

"We know there are individual differences in the way people react to substances," she says. "Some people have positive reactions while one person takes a tiny sip of alcohol and feels dizzy and sick. That person is less likely to want to repeat that experience."

Whatever the pathway, addiction typically starts in adolesence, peaks between the ages of 18 and 25 and then drops with the assumption of more adult roles such as marriage and children.

Out of all substances, nicotine has the smallest drop-off rate.

"One of the reasons tobacco is considered very addictive is because it's legal," Chassin says. "Every puff is a dose and you can dose constantly.

As far as addiction among college students, Chassin says alcohol is the most popular substance. She says problem drinking is more common among college students than their peers who do not go to college, while those who don't attend college are more prone to use serious drugs.

"College students view it as legal, but it's not," Chassin says, explaining that many students drink before they are 21.

"It's really the culture," she says. "You have to change the values and norms of college if you want to change problem drinking."

Treatment

While Casey's situation culminated in his arrest and a fine -- a far less climactic experience than movie drug busts -- not every situation remains as mellow.

In fact, there are many students on campus whose substance abuse, extending to drugs beyond marijuana but also including substances such as alcohol, results in more dramatic actions.

But according to Ray Johnson, the assistant program director for The Valley Hope Outpatient Treatment Center -- a rehab facility in Tempe -- many college-aged students are not likely to reach out for help when they have a problem.

"I want to believe that college-aged students are more socially aware of what's going on these days because of all the info that's available through the Internet, but at the same time, they're 19, 20 years old, so they are probably less likely to seek help because they think they don't need it," he says.

"They aren't going to seek help if they think they don't have a problem."

However, Johnson, who has worked at the center for eight years, says students in college, especially living on their own at a university, are often more susceptible to problem drinking, which is defined as drinking to a point when it starts having adverse affects on one's life.

"There's a lot of partying, some of it is supported by sororities and fraternities, which most likely have parties, on and off campus," he says.

According to Dr. David Bower, a health educator at ASU who deals primarily with substance abuse education, Student Health and Wellness issued a survey in 2004 to ASU students to research how much they drink.

Bower says 31.3 percent of ASU students who took the survey had five or more drinks in a sitting in the two weeks prior to the survey, and 31.6 percent had five or more drinks the last time they had partied.

Johnson says the hazard of drinking is greater when it is binge drinking.

"When they do drink, they overindulge in alcohol. That's pretty dangerous," he says.

Johnson says binge drinking merits treatment just as much as any other substance problem.

"They need to learn about the progression of addictions so they can do something about it now before it turns into full-blown addiction," he says. "I think education treatment is indicated because it's dangerous; it can be life threatening."

Johnson says Valley Hope, located on Southern Avenue near Loop 101, is a treatment center for any kind of chemical dependency, from alcohol and pain medications to cocaine and heroin. He says the age range of its patients is anywhere from 18 to 68.

"We are licensed to provide substance abuse treatment services to those that need and want it," he says.

The type of services the Valley Hope provides include initial interviewing, evaluations to determine the degree of someone's addiction, counseling and education for individuals or groups, and family services for substance abuse.

The encouraging, and almost comfortable environment is obvious once the door is opened. Behind the desk in the waiting room area is a wall lined with supportive reading materials from pamphlets on drug and alcohol abuse, to brochures, books, and magazines and newspapers published by the Valley Hope.

On campus

For many college students, the idea of rehab seems too serious, which often turns them away from seeking help.

But getting help may be the most important decision one can make and is as close as the Student Services building on campus. There, the Counseling and Consultation office in Room 334, offers students advice and information.

Dr. Mark Groberski sits back in a large red armchair in a conference room, his hand resting gently on his right cheek. Tranquil music plays in the background.

Groberski, the office's associate director, says many students come into a counseling session complaining of an assortment of problems that usually lead to substance abuse.

"Sometimes we have to try and work with people and try to make that connection for them and kind of say, 'All of these problems you have coming in here, we think it is related to your drug or alcohol use,' " he says.

This is not true of all students, however.

"There are some people who come in and they very clearly say 'My alcohol use or my drug use is getting out of control,' " he says.

A student can either visit the office or call to make an appointment, Groberski says. Every counselor there is trained to handle substance abuse issues.

However, the treatment offered at Counseling and Consultation Services is different than other treatment centers in the sense that it is less intensive and not as education-based, he says.

Because there is no specific substance abuse center on campus, students are able to use Counseling and Consultation to talk about their substance abuse either on an individual basis or in groups, Groberski says.

He says the counselors work with students to cut down or to try to stop substance abuse altogether.

"But that's not always something you can do in this kind of a setting," he says. "Some people do stop on their own. It's never easy, though."

Groberski says a lot of different aspects of life, especially student life, affect students in ways that could lead to substance abuse.

"A lot of it depends on what kind of experiences people have had coming into college," he says.

He says that other factors include genetics, adaptation abilities, psychological expectations, stress and developmental issues.

"Maybe that is one way to show that I'm not such a part of my family anymore. I'm living my own life. I'm making my own decisions," he adds. "The problem with that, of course, is that people get themselves into situations where they can really get hurt."

According to Johnson, there are several signs that indicate a substance abuse problem.

"It's a gradual process, and it's different for all types of people," he says.

Indications of substance abuse include excessive absenteeism, irresponsibility for daily duties, changing friends, not taking care of oneself, financial problems, trouble with the law and accidents.

"They're going to focus on getting high or getting drunk or crashing instead of taking care of themselves," he says.

Groberski concurs with these warning signs, and says it is also important to consider the negative consequences that occur due to substance abuse. Physical signs of this include withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, not going to class or going to class drunk, getting oneself into bad situations, and performing wild acts. Groberski says these all indicate that one is out of control.

He adds, "You have got to look at that and say, 'Well, if that is what I am doing when I am drinking, and I can't stop myself from drinking like that, should I be drinking?' "

Groberski says the most important thing for anyone entering into rehab or going into counseling is keeping up with follow-up appointments, to minimize the chance of relapse. This process is ongoing and often crucial for staying healthy.

"It's a lifelong process of needing to be aware that this is kind of a vulnerability area and this is something you need to take into account in terms of where you go and who you go out with," he says.

Groberski says there is a small fee for Counseling and Consultation Services that varies on individual and group bases, and also depends on a student's insurance. For more information, call the office at (480) 965-6146.

Reach the reporter at tara.brite@asu.edu.



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