Offering Substance-Free Social, Extracurricular, and Public Service Options

One major factor driving college alcohol and other drug abuse is that many students find themselves with an abundance of unstructured free time. On some campuses, few social options do not involve alcohol or other drugs. The substance-free activities that are available, such as outings and community service opportunities, often require advance planning and registration. The result is that students, for lack of better alternatives, may engage in high-risk drinking and other drug use when they have free time on their hands.

Campus administrators can provide a range of rewarding, fun, substance-free activities and events for students looking to fill time between classes, in the evenings, and on weekends. Social, recreational, extracurricular, and volunteer opportunities that students can participate in spontaneously, as well as those that require some planning, can be offered as an alternative to partying. A wide array of activities appeals to the diverse range of interests of a typical student body and can range from late night gym hours to campus cafes to community service endeavors.

Publicizing these events through various channels ensures students are aware of the available options. E-mail, Web-based announcements, table tents, and signs on bulletin boards and other high-traffic areas are some of the no- and low-cost ways substance-free recreational options can be promoted on campus.

In addition to establishing new substance-free events, administrators can promote the availability of nonalcoholic beverages at existing events. Doing so can help transform those events once characterized by alcohol consumption and also establish healthier norms for the events.

Community Service as a Substance-Free Activity

Engaging in service learning, volunteer, or community service work can deter students from engaging in substance abuse. Simply put, when students are participating in these activities, they are not drinking or using other drugs.

In addition to reducing alcohol and other drug abuse by students, participation in community service work can improve campus relationships with surrounding communities. Conscientious students working in the community can counter the effect of the behavior of some irresponsible students that can foster resentment in local neighborhoods, and such involvement provides opportunities for students to work side-by-side with residents for the benefit of the community.

There are easy ways to integrate community service opportunities into campus life. Faculty can work with administrators to increase these opportunities and incorporate them into their curricula. Requiring students to perform community service at orientation or as part of a curriculum ensures students will participate. As with substance-free activities, promoting these opportunities will also increase student awareness and interest.

Examples of Specific Activities

  • Create and promote substance-free events and activities.
  • Promote consumption of nonalcoholic beverages at campus events.
  • Open a student center, coffeehouse, or other substance-free setting.
  • Expand gym and student center hours to accommodate late-night use.
  • Create and publicize student service learning or volunteer opportunities.
  • Require community service work as part of the academic curriculum.
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