So you’ve just started your first year of college, and you’re sorting out all the academic challenges. Hopefully, you’ve got your accommodations in place and some other supports that can help you succeed. We have more about succeeding in college if you are looking for additional information.
Setting up academic safety nets, however, are only part of the new challenges you may be facing. It’s important to set up physical safety nets as well. College is a new and exciting adventure. But with any new adventure can come some dangers, especially for students with ADHD. ADHD symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, perseveration (sometimes called hyperfocus) and impaired short-term memory can open you to safety risks on campus and among new groups of people. There is the unfortunately reality that some people will try to acquire your prescription medications, either through coercion, offers to buy it or by stealing them from you.
You can stay safe on campus and reduce your risks of harm by adding some habits to your daily routines. Also check with your campus police or security offer for specific safety tips for your campus. Here are some more tips.
In your dorm or apartment
Lock up your medication―Tell only those who absolutely need to know if you have been prescribed a medication as part of your treatment plan. Friends and roommates don’t need to be privy to your treatment plan and medications; even well-meaning friends can tell the wrong person that you have medications in your room.
Be sure to keep your medication locked up and stored safely. This may be a desk drawer, foot locker, or closet safe. When leaving your dorm room or apartment, double-check that you’ve locked the door. Making a habit of locking your door not only prevents the theft of your belongings and medications but also is for your personal safety. Keeping your door locked when you return to your room or apartment is equally important to prevent unwanted individuals from entering your space.
Post emergency numbers―Keep the phone number for campus police or security posted on the wall in your dorm room and recorded in your cell phone’s contacts. This way it’s readily found if you ever need to call for help. If you live off campus, keep the local police phone number and other emergency numbers posted.
Choose your guests wisely―Your dorm room or apartment is your haven. Be selective in who you invite into this space and limit the number of people who visit. Opt instead to meet friends and study partners at public locations, such as the campus café, library, coffee shop or student lounge. Don’t be pressured to invite anyone―friend, study partner or dating partner―into your space, especially if something doesn’t feel right to you. Remember, it’s your space and you have the right to say who comes in.
Walking on campus―Learn your way around campus as soon as you can. That includes knowing where emergency phones are located. If you drive to campus, look for the parking lot closest to your classes, especially your last class of the day.
Find friends who walk to campus or to classes together. Don’t walk alone at night. If you can, vary your route and don’t be predictable in case someone unwanted is paying attention to your comings and goings.
When walking or jogging, do not wear your earphones. Although listening to music is tempting, the distraction of music can make you less aware of your surroundings and anyone who might sneak up on you.
Call for a ride―If you need to go across campus or out after dark, call your school’s security or police office for a ride across campus. Some schools have special student walking escort clubs and will send two students to walk across campus with you.
Don’t accept a ride with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know well. If you are getting a ride from a classmate or friend, let your roommate or another good friend know who is driving you and when you are expected to arrive. Be sure to let the person offering you a ride see you make the phone call.
Be aware of your symptoms―ADHD symptoms can affect your decisions and your social relationships. Talk with your treatment provider about ways of controlling your impulsivity. Impulsivity can lead to regrettable decisions. It can also place you at risk when decisions regarding personal safety need to be made or when alcohol or drugs are involved in social situations.
Inattention can also cause problems. Be careful about keeping track of your keys, wallet, and other belongings. When walking around campus or town, try to avoid looking distracted and dawdling. Walking with purposeful strides may make you less of a mark for criminals.
Watch out for peer pressure―Many young adults affected by ADHD have had trouble making or keeping friends. On a college campus, there’s an opportunity for new friends and a desire to quickly jump into friendships. However, anyone who pressures you to do something that you find uncomfortable is not a friend. This is especially true when dating. A friend accepts your “No,” and won’t try to change it.
Avoid alcohol and drugs―If you are under 21, do not drink at all. If you are over 21, discuss with your doctor any possible interactions between your ADHD medication and alcohol. Always drink in moderation with a friend who is either not drinking or is also drinking in moderation. Sometimes it’s best to leave a party or social situation when beer or liquor are being served. Have a plan in place even before you leave for the party for when and how you will come home.
Leave immediately if people are doing drugs at a party or social gathering. There is no safe use of any drug, including marijuana. Being arrested for illegal drug use can affect your future educational and career opportunities. The health risks, including addiction and risk of bodily harm, are not worth the experimentation. Drug abuse includes not only illegal drugs but using medications that are prescribed to other people.
These are general tips that are a good place to start for campus safety. For more information on what you do to be safe on campus, visit College Health and Safety and Tips for College Health and Safety.
Do you have a question about ADHD or are you looking for a resource? Contact our Health Information Specialists at 800-233-4050, Monday through Friday, from 1-5 p.m. Easter Time. Or join the discussion at Questions & Answers.