Real Talk Podcast: Understanding and Facing Addiction at the Student Level

September 28, 2022
real talk with susan and kristina podcast

In this episode of Real Talk, KJK Student Defense Attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler are joined by Philip van Guilder, a Director of Greenhouse Treatment Center’s Community Affairs.  They discuss mental health and addiction issues in students.  The conversation includes the unexpected patterns of addiction and mental health issues prevalent is students today how to identify and address the symptoms of addictive behavior, and what every parent needs to know about the treatment and prevention of mental health and addiction issues.

Links Mentioned In the Show:


Show Notes:

  • (01:37) From personally going through addiction to becoming a mental health evangelist 
  • (02:44) The stigma against mental health and addiction issues versus the Greenhouse Treatment Center: how they can help children and adults in 28 days
  • (03:17) What makes the Greenhouse Treatment Center different from most other kinds of hospitals
  • (04:57) Why parents now need to monitor their children for addiction issues as early as the 7th grade 
  • (06:30) Marijuana and the serious damage it can do to a child’s developing brain, including psychosis
  • (07:40) Why children can get access to drugs from the comfort of their own home
  • (08:58) The warning signs of addictive behavior in children that every parent should be aware of
  • (09:36) One way in which parents and college faculty can curb the onset of addiction issues in students 
  • (11:17) The severe and sometimes fatal consequences of overindulgence in alcohol and drugs in college students 
  • (12:34) The science behind why compulsive addictive behavior takes place
  • (15:02) The battle of alcohol addiction and sobriety from a first-hand perspective
  • (16:26) Mind vs. Body: Sticking to the path of sobriety
  • (17:57) The ongoing stigma against those with mental health issues
  • (19:44)  The best approach to addressing a simultaneous mental health and addiction challenge in college students
  • (22:19) Can someone just have a naturally addictive personality? 
  • (24:12) The prevalence of alcohol inhalation and why it’s a symptom of addiction
  • (25:38) The relationship between alcohol/drug disorders and eating orders in patients
  • (26:45) The easy steps parents can take to protect their kids and their friends from mental health and/or addiction issues



Kristina Supler: So here at Real Talk, we’re committed to educating our listeners about substance abuse and safety measures that parents and students should know about. On a past episode of Real Talk, we were pleased to have on as a guest, Dr. Beth Weinstock of the Birdie Light organization, whose mission is really to spread information about test strips.

And we’re so pleased to have our guests today. 

Susan Stone: We are going to talk to Philip van Guilder, Guilder. I’m sorry. Do you pronounce it? Guilder? Phil Philip.

Philip Van Guilder: I do. Yes.

Susan Stone: I, I have my tongue twisted today, Kristina. And he is a self-described mental health evangelist at the Greenhouse Treatment Center. And I wanna add a father of five, uh, Philip, without speaking out of turn, you indicated in our pre-chat that you had some addiction issues. And so did your children and for our listeners out there who are mainly parents of high school and college age students, I think your insight is gonna be invaluable. And just add on our last podcast with podcast with Dr. Weinstock so could, before we begin, can you tell us what is a mental health evangelist?

I, I saw that and I’m like, are you religious? Where are you coming from?

Philip Van Guilder: No, no, it has nothing to do with spirituality. Uh, actually the, the evangelist is a, it pulls me away from the marketing aspects. I, what I’m trying to do and what I do for the greenhouse is make us as transparent to the outside community as possible and make the outside community as transparent to the personnel here as possible. 

So we can maximize all the resources available and, and we can normalize the stigma of, of mental health issues and, and addiction so that it encourages people to, uh, just to normalize it so that people can get help and, and not feel any sort of a stigma. So I kind of wear my recovery on my sleeve.

I mean, if you were to meet me on the street, we were having coffee bumped into each other within about two or three minutes somehow or another, I would word it that you would know. I was a person in long term recovery. 

Kristina Supler: Philip, you are at Greenhouse Treatment Center, which is a part of the American Addiction Center.

Tell us, what’s give us some insight into the population that you work with on a daily basis. And what do you do? 

Susan Stone: Tell us what I, I wanna learn about you. 

Philip Van Guilder: Okay, thank you. So, so our population is 18 and above, and there are people who primary, uh, diagnosis is substance use. What, what I do, as I said, I reach out to the community.

We wanna know what resources are out there. When you come to treatment, whether you’re, uh, going to treatment as it, a young adult, or whether you’re going to treatment as a, as a child, whatever age you’re going to treatment. The 28 days today, which is about what most people can, can, uh, expect to get from their insurance.

That’s the first step. Uh, we’re a hospital. Uh, most hospitals you go to when you go to the hospital, you get medicine, you get a cast, you you’re injuries are, are stitched up. And when you leave, you’re, you’re virtually on your way to, to recovery. 

This hospital is different. What we do here is we give you information and, and when you leave, what you do with that information determines whether or not you’re gonna get well, we don’t.

And so this is just the first step of your recovery process. So when, so for us, it’s important for us to connect with the community because we expect to take the patient, the client from the 28 days and send them to someone else for the next level of care, which is a, um, perhaps partial partial hospitalization, which is the same as all day programming, but not in a hospital setting or intensive outpatient, I O P, which is, number of hours each day, allowing them to work, but continuing their recovery journey or, or even perhaps, uh, as complete step down to continuing care where they show up for a group, uh, once a week or once a month for continuing care.

Susan Stone: It’s such a long process to recovery. I really, I admire anybody who has the courage to go through it. You talked about working with students 18 and above. Tell us what insights do you have today on young adults battling with addiction, anything different, new, 

Kristina Supler: or what’s the most prevalent form of addiction you’re seeing.

Susan Stone: Oh, great question, Kristina. 

Philip Van Guilder: yeah, that, that is a good question. Yeah. What, what we’re seeing today is it starts much younger. So by the time we see an 18 year old, they’ve been involved in, in some of the statistics, I can show, go back to the seventh and eighth grade and it was, and, and, and with alcohol 

Susan Stone: or drugs, seventh or eighth grade, 

Philip Van Guilder: Both and with non-prescribed medications and, and, and I, some statistics as recently as 2020, just from this area, we’re, we’re in, we’re just would be the same as any area.

 30% of 10th graders, 30% of 10th graders either found it, not dangerous to use marijuana. And yet we know the THC content of marijuana today is so high, that, that it can be very destructive in young developing minds and 30%. So fully, a third of 10th graders believe it’s safe to use marijuana.

Susan Stone: Well, if it’s legal in some states, how would parents dispel that belief? 

Kristina Supler: Well, I will say in a past episode, we had on Dr. Jill Grimes and who’s written a book for college audiences and she is a big believer that it is essential that parents educate their children. That marijuana is harmful no matter what anyone thinks, if it’s legalized or not, it does things to developing brains and students need to be aware of the negative impact on brain develop.

Philip Van Guilder: Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s no doubt about that. So, so let’s go back 30, 40 years ago when the THC was three to 4% and, people, perhaps college age experimented with it, maybe they even used it frequently, but it’s still three to 4% today. We see pure, uh, marijuana. 18 to 20% and in a developing brain, we’re seeing cases of psychosis in 16 year olds, first time use, and we’re talking some serious damage.

And we know that well, first of all, , and it is not to, it’s not to beat up on young people, but. If a little is good, a lot is better. So there is no moderation when we’re looking see another thing I’ve got here. One in five eighth graders believe that it’s that’s 20, 20% to almost 21% of eight graders.

Believe it’s okay to use non-prescribed medications because of the way it makes you feel. not just marijuana, but we’re talking about people that walk up to the medicine cabinet and grab some, uh, mood altering medication and think it’s safe to use a non-prescribed medication.

Susan Stone: It’s right in the home.

Philip Van Guilder: That, that they get out of the medicine cabinet because their parents are taking it on a prescribed basis for the right reasons and they believe it’s okay. And it’s safe. They believe it’s safe, not just okay, but safe to use it because it’s after all it’s a prescribed medication. Prescribed for someone else.

Kristina Supler: Sure. Well, and also, I think we’d be remiss not to mention that with marijuana in this day and age, there’s also all the risks. As in that we don’t know what marijuana or, or other street drugs could be laced with. 

Susan Stone: Right. And I, I was thinking one of the questions I wanted you to opine about is. How, if you’re in college and you’re drinking or occasionally using recreational drugs, how would a student know if what they’re doing is within that normal college range versus heading to addiction?

What is the line between, okay. You’re just having fun in college, a recreational user recreational user, between or. You need to get help. Is it grade slipping, loss of friendships? What are your thoughts? 

Philip Van Guilder: so I don’t wanna be vague about this, but let’s, let’s go back to what we mean by addictive behavior. When it’s compulsive, when I have no choice, but to use. 

When it’s no longer a matter of it was socially fun, but when I have to use in order to feel normal. So what is it like for any, for everybody it’s that day when you wake up and you say, you know, I can’t face the day without a drink or I can’t face the day without first lighting up a blunt or I can’t face the day without getting a rig and loading it.

That’s the day when it’s gone too far. In fact, one of the newest organizations that we’ve seen start off in the last, I would say, I want to, and I’m guessing at this, maybe the last four or five years is young people in recovery on college campuses. We’re starting to see a real big push for that because they’re not learning how to use in college. They’re bringing the addiction to college with them. 

And so a number of places and, and there’s a number of campuses around the country. Arizona was one of the first universities in Tempe was one of the first universities to have a young people on campus. I’m not trying to promote them, but they’re just, I just remember meeting some folks that had come out to, to, to bring that template to other campuses around the DFW area.

And, and it seemed like people were gravitating towards it because they realized they had a problem. Now that’s, I don’t know, that’s just taken off, but I know that today, when I’m talking to a young person, that’s worried about going to school. Like I’m, I’m about a young 18 year old yesterday in a meet last night in a meeting.

And he said, he’s starting on campus. So small. And I was able to direct him to a young people’s group on the local university campus. So it was kind of nice to see him. Know that there’s a safe place for him to go. He’s been struggling since January of this year. It was kind of nice. 

Susan Stone: Do you think it’s gotta be very lonely to be a college student today in a fraternity or on a sports team and have to say I don’t drink.

I don’t, I’m an addict. Yeah. I, I can’t imagine the shame, but you know, Kristina, we’ve had a lot of friends tell us, they’re now sober curious. Mm-hmm , you know, 

Kristina Supler: A question I had for you, Philip, Susan and I working with students across the country day in and day out. We, every day we’re hearing terms like blackout, brown out, gray out and, and.

Binge drinking has, has really seems been, been normalized. 

Susan Stone: We’ve seen deaths. 

Kristina Supler: Yeah, actually we’ve had a couple different cases with a death component and it’s an absolute tragedy. What are your thoughts on why. Students are indulging, whether it’s alcohol or drugs to such extremes now. Do you think it’s the influence of social media?

Is it the pandemic in mental health? Or, I mean, working with populations at Greenhouse, do you have any insights? 

Susan Stone: Yeah, I was gonna say, Kristina, you know, we dealt with that one case where students drink whole bottles of alcohol. And I, I have to tell you, I don’t remember that. Did you have that at college? 

Kristina Supler: I mean, it certainly seems that in the news, there’s more reports about fraternity hazing in, in student let’s just say excess. And I don’t know if it’s because it’s going on with greater frequency or just the media and other professionals are trying to bring more awareness so that students can be safe. But Philip, what are your thoughts? 

Philip Van Guilder: I really, I don’t think someone says, uh, this is the weekend I wanna binge. You get there with that compulsive addictive behavior.

It there’s it’s if you’re truly let’s use alcohol, let me separate that from other other drugs. Let’s just use alcohol. We know that medically there’s a craving component that comes people that are, that, that are alcoholics typically. If we look at the medical, uh, component, it says that we’re not able to process or metabolize alcohol at the same rate of non-alcoholic is. Whereas a non-alcoholic can process about one ounce per hour.

We can’t, we’re missing certain components, genetically that keep us, or prevent us from being able to do that. So if we drink more than one ounce per hour, and what happens because we, we retain the alcohol in our system longer because we can’t metabolize it. We can’t discharge it. It kicks off the craving.

So the more we drink, the more we crave that’s 

Kristina Supler: oh, that’s interesting.

Philip Van Guilder: That’s medical thing, whereas you might drink one ounce per hour. By the time you get to the second or third one, you’re going, uh, oh, I got a buzz. I’m sitting here thinking man, I need to have some more. I don’t have a buzz. Like I want the buzz. You considered something that makes you uncomfortable and I considered something that’s necessary.

Susan Stone: So that’s why all of a sudden they’re craving, craving, craving these students. And then all of a sudden blackout. 

Philip Van Guilder: Yeah. Yeah, because the more they drink, the more they crave, I mean, at midnight, Joe and Charlie, talk about this two wonderful people that are in recovery that, that are both passed now, but that, that have the thing they took about at midnight.

After I’ve been drinking all night long. And I pass out in, the the parking lot of a, of a bar and I get run over by a car and you come over to help me. And the first thing I say is, when you say, what can I do to help you? And I say, oh my God, get me a drink. Like I still haven’t had enough. That for me, the cravings kicked off at two o’clock in the morning.

My craving, my desire for alcohol is so much greater than it was when I started. Cuz I didn’t have a craving until I put alcohol in my body. That initiated the craving. Hmm. The more, the more I crave 

Susan Stone: I’m sorry, gotta ask. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Um, oh, but does the craving ever go away or do you just learn to live with the learn to manage it?

Philip Van Guilder: Yeah. So, so that goes to the second component. It’s the obsession of the mind coupled with the allergy of the body. If I don’t put the alcohol on my body, I cannot kick off the craving. And what happens is after some period of time, I go, well, you know, I haven’t had a drink in three weeks. Uh, I’m probably not that bad.

It I’m just gonna have one. And so I played this game that says I’m just gonna have one because it’s been a while since I’ve kicked off the craving. The moment I put the alcohol in my body, I kick off the craving. I’m back in this cycle again. And I wake up once again in a, in, in the next day. I can’t tell you what happened the night before.

And, and once again, I’m gonna swear off alcohol forever. 

Kristina Supler: so with a long, let’s just say, for example, a long stint of sobriety from, from any substance alcohol or drug drugs, if an individual has been sober for let’s just say five years, does it get easier as time passes or do you still really have to be focused and dedicated to sobriety?

Philip Van Guilder: Right. So I, I wouldn’t speak for others each journey’s individual, but for the people that I’ve been around, the people that I hang out with, I’m sober coming up on just about 19 years. As I said to you earlier, I met a young man at a meeting last night. I go to meetings frequently. Mm-hmm , uh, two or three times a week.

Cuz I have a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease. So for me, the easiest thing for me to do, cuz I used to spend all my time thinking about drinking. If I didn’t, if I wasn’t thinking about it, I was drinking. Today it’s a few hours. I spend a few moments each morning, starting my day. A little prayer meditation, trying to connect with the power greater than myself and, and do meetings and do service work, carry the message to others.

But the only time I think about drinking is I go to a meeting that I am meeting a newcomer that’s talking about drinking. I don’t think about it. But that’s my disease. so my disease is sitting there on my shoulder. Disease’s telling you, 

Kristina Supler: you don’t have a disease. I’ve never, I don’t that way. 

Susan Stone: Interesting.

See, that’s an incredible thought that the difference between your disease and let’s say, God forbid someone with cancer is someone with cancer doesn’t say I don’t have cancer. But someone with alcoholism says, I don’t have it. That’s incredible. I wanna shift gears a little bit because Kristina and I work with students with mental health challenges, other mental health challenges.

And we know you do too. As you call yourself a mental health evangelist. And we see you’ve done a lot of work with the stigma associated with mental health issues. We’ve come a long way, our society as a whole de-stigmatizing mental health issues. But I’d like to know from your perspective, what do you think today remains as a stigma? If anything, or do you think it, the stigma’s gone?

Philip Van Guilder: Oh, uh, no, the stigma’s there. Until you have a loved one, that’s struggling. It’ll you said it, let’s talk about substance use or we’ll talk about mental health, even mental health issues. We’re still the bottom feeders of diseases. I mean, if you tell somebody you got cancer, they’re out there having a parade to raise money, to help you with your treatment. 

You tell somebody that you’ve got a mental health issue or you’re a, you’re an alcoholic and they’re gonna change seats so that they don’t catch it. we’re talking about it openly now. But that doesn’t take it away because until it’s actually a part of your family, or until you have a neighbor or until you have a loved one or until, you know, someone on a personal level until that happens, it’s just a, a terrible thing that, that, that happens to other people.

And I don’t wanna be around them because they’re mentally not right. 

Kristina Supler: Sure. Or, or it’s a theoretical issue. That’s, you know, a lack of discipline that right. Wouldn’t happen in my family. My kids wouldn’t succumb to that. So let me ask you on this topic of mental health and substance abuse, how much more difficult if at all, is it to, to treat substance abuse when there’s other mental health issues present? Or is it sort of the same approach to treatments regardless of anxiety, depression and other comorbidities? 

Susan Stone: That’s a good question. And also we know a lot of students with mental health issues have to take medications like Ritalin. Or Adderall or they can’t function and learn. But if there’s also an addiction issue, I also always wondered, oh my gosh, that’s really complicated. 

Philip Van Guilder: This is a tough one because we, we have to stabilize the mental health component before you can treat the addiction.

What comes first? I mean, oftentimes the addiction was their solution for their perceived problem. It’s really tough, but you gotta do ’em. They both have to be done together. But you can’t treat the, the addiction. If you’re not treating the mental health component and, and you can, and, and it’s gotta be done in conjunction with one another.

 If they’re acute before you can treat the addiction, you have to help them get stabilized because you can’t begin to pay attention. Remember I told you we’re transferring knowledge to an individual. If the individual can’t sit still and can’t regulate, we can’t transfer that knowledge. So now we’ve gotta find a place for them to go where they can be stabilized.

So, so that they can be okay in their own skin. It mean when you see certain people with certain mental health issues, they’re climbing out of their skin. The last thing is they your solution, right? We can’t take away your solution because you just you’re already climbing outta your own skin. 

Susan Stone: Yeah. You know, it’s so interesting because Kristina and I will often have to have students get ready for their interview or for a hearing.

And we will notice that if there’s a student and they have not taken their, let’s say medication for whatever issue that’s going on. It is very hard for us to work with those students because they’re literally, they can’t focus and they’re fidgeting. 

Philip Van Guilder: Yeah. I mean, what a dilemma. And then if it’s addictive behavior, let’s just say we, so let’s say that they’re, they’re, they’re normal.

They’re regulated. And then let’s say we’ve got ’em to where they’re not. The alcohol or the, the drug component is manageable. Suddenly their sex addiction takes off. Mm. Or, 

Kristina Supler: or we get this so interesting that you bring that up because we, we see that in, in so many of our cases where the addiction is perhaps a coping mechanism for other underlying mental health issues.

And sometimes one, addiction just sort of trades out for another. And so let me ask you, is it true that there is such thing as an addictive personality? Someone who’s just naturally, whether it’s baseball cards, coffee, substances, they, if they do something once they just really like it and they’re all in and everything is to excess.

Philip Van Guilder: Well, I, I don’t think, I, I think I’d leave that to the medical community, but, but I would say this, I think it’s possible to have addicted behavior as opposed to addicted personality. Going to what you were saying, I mean, now we get the sex addiction under control. We get the, the alcohol addiction into control that we are regulated and suddenly we’re sitting at the casino gambling.

Or we’re or we’re online shopping with Amazon, whatever it is. 

Kristina Supler: Or overeating 

Susan Stone: or overeating or food or over exercising or over, over, over, but over. Yeah. Is it, is it it’s actually an addictive personality or is it a sign of just some other emotional need to fill a space or a void? 

Philip Van Guilder: Uh, once again, I think I have to go to defer to the medical community as the causation.

Susan Stone: You know, we’re gonna have to explore this more in our podcast, Kristina, and I wanna switch gears because I was reading a little bit about you to get ready. And I noticed that you also talk about eating disorders and I’m 56. And when I went to college, I knew many, many, many students who suffered from bulimia or anorexia. 

And as also a mother who has raised and is raising daughters. I don’t see the eating disorders as being as prevalent. And in fact, I see a lot more body positivity, uh, but I see more cutting mm-hmm a different type of, uh, form of control or relieving of mental health issues. And I just wanna know what your thoughts are on the topic of eating disorders versus cutting versus trichotillomania, which is the hair pulling hair.

Philip Van Guilder: They’re all symptomatic and, and indicative of someone that’s ill. And eating disorders probably. And I’ve gotta be careful for all my friends in the eating disorder community that I love all the professionals, uh, because I I’m around so many experts and I don’t perceive myself to be an expert.

But I’m someone that’s passionate about it because I see it as a very common trait. I remember at one point about 10 years ago, one of the big things going on, you were talking about college and it was mostly college. It was, it was sororites. So it was mostly the female side.

But there was this, uh, ability to inhale alcohol and women were, uh, using these and, uh, there was using like, humidifiers. And they would adjust alcohol that way to, to, to minimize the amount of weight they put on by consuming alcohol.

So they could get the effect of being’s drunk it’s they could get the effect of being drunk, but they wouldn’t add weight. Yeah. Do you, so, and there’s a, there’s a name for it and I can’t remember now, but we had a real rash of that I’m gonna say this about 10 years ago. Where we, that was the big thing on college campuses especially for sororities. They would have these parties where they would inhale through these misters alcohol.

So they wouldn’t gain weight. Very prevalent. 

Susan Stone: Hm. So what are you seeing now? That’s coming in in terms of eating disorders in your centers. 

Philip Van Guilder: Especially here at the greenhouse, we’re, we’re screening for it because it’s, if, if you’ve got an alcohol or a drug disorder, you’re very high on the spectrum of of possibilities of the eating disorder.

And, and in fact, we see quite a bit of that, uh, So it I’m getting the problem here. It says I should dial in. I’m not sure if that’s correct. No, you’re okay. Okay. So, all right, I’m sorry. I just got a warning and I I’s sure, like NASA we’re like about to do a launch. That’s 

Susan Stone: what makes this a real podcast?

Philip is that I start with the tongue twister, you get a tech warning and that’s what makes our listeners know that is not scripted or canned and that we’re being authentic here. That’s 

Philip Van Guilder: right. Oh, I love it. That’s great. 

Kristina Supler: Last question, Phillip, what is the best piece of advice that you can offer for our parent listeners out there in terms of what they should talk to their students about before heading off to college in the fall, or 

Susan Stone: even on summer break right now?

Kristina Supler: Yeah, actually that you’re so right. Susan. 

Philip Van Guilder: Every parent, whether you see any sort of behavior, not statistically, your child is either connected with addictive behavior doing it themselves, or they know someone that is. But, but you’ve gotta start talking to ’em about resources, about no shame and ask, just talking about it, just being open about it.

We never talked about it and, uh, I remember, um, Uh, and this is part of my background many years ago. The way I got involved with eating disorders is I was on the board of directors of a ballet company in California. And I would listen to the artistic director line, the young people up, and we’re talking young 12, 13, 14 year old students.

And she would call him, she would say, you’re all fat. And I would ask friends of mine. I, I, it didn’t seem to me that that was appropriate. And I would say to people that, that, that doesn’t seem like a very nice way to treat young people. That’s what I thought. That’s just not a nice thing to say. And they would say yes, but you understand she’s a balanchine.

She loves slender dancers. And I would go, oh, okay. Not realizing how much damage was being done by these statements by this adult, to these 12 and 13 and 14 year olds. That goes on today. We allow kids to make fun of other kids based on their body the, the visibility, and, and instead of being body beautiful.

It’s like every advertisement today is still around slender body types. It’s rare that we see a commercial with real people. And so I, I guess going back to your question, what are for adults, let’s just talk about it. Let’s just have a discussion about it. Let’s just make it safe for people to come to us and chat with us about things they don’t understand.

Susan Stone: Well, and we are so lucky that you came here to chat with us on Real Talk with Susan and Kristina. Because that’s what the goal of our podcast is. We 

Kristina Supler: always want to encourage parents to have open dialogue with their students about any topic, drugs, sex, alcohol, disabilities, stress management. Our goal is just to promote wellness for the student population.

So we’re so pleased that you were able to. Today. Thank you. 

Philip Van Guilder: Thank you. Thank you both very much. It was a pleasure to be here, right? Excited to be with you guys and exciting for what you’re doing. Thank you.