LSD, hash oil, marijuana, MDMA – these are a just a few of the substances that were found when police searched the Texas A&M University chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity at the end of last month. A 19-year-old young man from Frisco died of an apparent drug overdose at the Sigma Nu fraternity house in College Station, triggering a full search of the house by local law enforcement that resulted in the arrest of four other young men between the ages of 18 and 21, all on charges of drug possession. Others were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
A graduate of Frisco Heritage High School, Anton Gridnev had reportedly just moved into the fraternity house on the 500 block of fraternity row. He was not breathing and not responsive when law enforcement found him. Emergency medical professionals transported him to College Station Medical Center where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Amy B. Smith is a spokesperson for Texas A&M University. She said: “We are deeply saddened by this news and offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the deceased student.”
The executive director of Sigma Nu, Brad Beacham expressed similar sentiments: “Our hearts are filled with sorrow as we grieve the loss of this young man.”
A Life Cut Short
Classes at Texas A&M University were set to begin on August 29. A handful of kids will start out with the weight of pending drug charges, legal fees, court dates, and punishment hanging over their heads. One will not be able to start at all. Some will blame the fraternity brothers, the Greek culture, or the drug culture prevalent among young people. But no matter where the brunt of the blame falls, the fact remains that too many teens and young adults are losing their lives to recreational use of drugs and alcohol long before the problem reaches the point of a substance use disorder.
Too often, the prevailing view is that some level of drug and alcohol abuse is not only expected but also normal, a rite of passage for young people in college. It is often even condoned by parents and other authority figures as a given, something that “everyone” does.
Additionally, when everyone is under the influence, the signs of medical emergency or overdose may be overlooked by peers. And when the signs of emergency are noticed, many young people may not call for help, too scared of the potential fallout and the consequences they may face for their own intoxication level and possession of drugs.
The fact is that using one time can be one time too many. Mixing substances – a common practice among young people who are inexperienced with different substances and don’t know what to expect – can be exceptionally dangerous. Essentially, any use of drugs and alcohol (including alcohol use before the age of 21) is an issue that requires attention.
When a young person begins to experiment with drugs and alcohol, there is a period of time in which it is relatively simple to course correct and get back on track, focusing on academics and extracurricular activities. This means that it is not necessary to wait for a young person to “hit rock bottom” or otherwise demonstrate devastating effects of drug use before connecting with treatment services. In fact, early intervention with appropriate services when drug use is in its infancy can help to protect against future problems – saving an academic career, personal relationships, and even a life in the process.
Parents or close friends who are concerned about someone’s heavy use of drugs or alcohol are right to take action. This can take the form of:
- Speaking up: The earlier that treatment services begin, the more likely they are to circumvent disaster. Don’t be afraid to say something, to have an honest and heartfelt conversation even if it is uncomfortable.
- Staging an intervention: If someone is not receptive to informal conversations on the benefits of treatment services, it can be helpful to stage a more formal conversation, often with the help of a professional family mediator or interventionist. This can demonstrate the serious risks of continued drug use as well as the dedication to the individual’s health and wellbeing and the genuine and heartfelt concern of family members.
- Setting and maintaining boundaries: It will be necessary to remove supports that enable ongoing drug and alcohol use. For example, parents may decide that college tuition or other spending money may be pulled until treatment is sought. The idea is to remove any assistance that may make continued substance abuse easier.
- Offering positive support: No matter what, it should be made clear that positive support for recovery is always available. No judgment, no labeling, no anger. Rather, encouragement and hope are the keys to helping someone connect with treatment.