How to Tell If Your College Student Struggles with Addiction


It’s that time of year when kids return home from college for their summer break. Living independently brings changes – adult children mature during this phase as they make their own decisions and often manage their own schedules and money – so, expect some fluctuation in how parents relate and interact with kids. At the same time, college students can be more vulnerable to peer pressure and the influence of others. This can sometimes lead to experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Addiction expert Dr. Indra Cidambi suggests being observant to catch signs of substance abuse  early.

“Adolescents slip into addiction to deal with stress or to be “accepted” by a “cool group,” says Dr. Cidambi. “So, it is important to talk to your kids to understand what is going on in their lives…helping them sort out feelings and fostering an environment where they turn to you first for help in solving a  problem.”

Dr. Cidambi wants to alert parents to five common changes brought on by substance  abuse:

1.    Behavioral/Mood Issues: “Substance abuse in young adults can often result in changes in social interactions, mood changes, problems with school or work, increase in risky behavior and mood swings,” says Dr. Cidambi. “The changes in social interactions are very noticeable. If your extroverted child suddenly now keeps more to himself/herself and avoids eye contact it should be a concern. If he or she is now sullen, irritable or depressed, it could be a warning sign. Reckless driving, car accidents or unexplained dents in the car could also point to a problem. Also, any deterioration of the child’s performance in school should be  explored.”

2.    Unkempt Appearance: “If you do a double take when you see your child, chances are something is going on,” says Dr. Cidambi. “If your child has become careless about his or her clothing, has an unkempt appearance and has a perennially runny nose, you should think about having a conversation with your child.” While it can be difficult to mentally accept the fact that your child is taking on the appearance of an addict, it is important to address changes in appearance, especially red or glassy eyes, unexplained marks on arms or legs (long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks), and continuous scratching or picking of face and  arms.

3.    Avoiding Old Friends: “If an addiction is consuming your child’s life, they may avoid their high school friends when they come back home, as they no longer affirm your child’s new lifestyle,” says Dr. Cidambi. As children evolve into adults, find new hobbies and spend most of the time in college, they will find new friends. However, it’s still a good sign if they connect with their high school friends when they are back home. Instead, if they are in search of new friends when back home, it may suggest a  problem.

4.    Lack of Interest in Hobbies: “If you find that your child no longer enjoys his or her usual activities, it may be that he or she has become pre-occupied with obtaining and using drugs or alcohol and it is taking over all aspects of their life,” notes Dr. Cidambi. Hobbies they usually enjoyed, or having a hobby at all, seems unimportant now. Instead of receiving mental and emotional stimulation from positive activities, they could be turning to drugs and alcohol to fill the  void.

5.    Change in Eating Habits: “As the hand that feeds, parents tend to notice this effect of substance abuse quickly,” says Dr. Cidambi. Depending on the substance, your child can experience an array of new food habits, including binge eating, also known as the ‘munchies’, or a decrease in appetite. This swing in eating habits can suggest a problem and calls for a  conversation.

For more information on substance abuse dependency, addiction and treatment, please go to

About Dr. Indra  Cidambi

Indra Cidambi, M.D., Medical Director, Center for Network Therapy, is recognized as a leading expert and pioneer in the field of Addiction Medicine. Under her leadership the Center for Network Therapy started New Jersey’s first state licensed Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification program for all substances nearly three years ago. Dr. Cidambi is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and double Board Certified in Addiction Medicine (ABAM, ABPN). Dr. Cidambi is the Vice President of the New Jersey Society of Addiction Medicine. She is fluent in five languages, including  Russian.

About Center for Network  Therapy

Center for Network Therapy (CNT) was the first facility in New Jersey to be licensed to provide Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification Services for all substances of abuse – alcohol, anesthetics, benzodiazepines, opiates and other substances of abuse. Led by a Board Certified Addiction Psychiatrist, Indra Cidambi, M.D., experienced physicians and nurses closely monitor each patient’s progress. With CNT’s superior client care and high quality treatment, Dr. Cidambi and her clinical team have successfully detoxed over 1200 patients in four  years.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.