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Prescription Drug Abuse Among College Students
Despite the fact that binge drinking and alcohol abuse have retained the top spot when it comes to substance abuse issues on college campuses, the abuse of prescription drugs – most notably opioids, stimulants and sedatives, is a growing problem that most universities are simply not dealing with. According to some of the latest available studies, almost 25 percent of all college students have illegally used prescription drugs. A great deal more students admit to having been offered these substances. This indicates that access to these drugs is certainly not a problem on college campuses.
What are the Abused Narcotic and Illegal Substances?
By discussing what the most commonly abused medications are and giving information about their possible dangers, it might help people identify potential problem areas. Perhaps you or someone you know is currently using medication that was not prescribed for them.
- Stimulants(examples Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin) – These increase energy levels, alertness and attention. Because these speed up the brain activity, they are often taken to perform better at tests or to complete homework assignments. Students will often use these to plan an ‘all-nighter’. These are dangerous because it can increase the blood pressure levels to dangerous heights. This puts additional strain on the heart. It may also be dangerous because of increases in respiration and heart rate.
- Sedatives(examples Ambien, Xanax, Ativan) – These ‘depress’ or slow down the functions of the central nervous system and the brain. However, if the user no longer has access to the substance, it may cause seizures as part of its withdrawal symptoms.
- Opioids(Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin) – While these block pain messages from reaching the brain, they have serious side effects. These may cause slow and shallow breathing or cause respiratory depression. These substances have been known to be fatal and users quickly develop a tolerance.
Consider these Facts
Another large problem is that people tend to dismiss problematic behavior at universities by saying “it’s just college.” The truth is that if someone struggles with addiction that develops during his or her four years of college, just graduating is not going to alleviate problems with drug or alcohol addiction.
- Despite the fact that most students are going to use prescribed medication the right way, approximately 25 percent of the students between the ages of 18 and 20, admit to having abused these substances in ways other than intended at least once in their lives.
- The age group with the largest prevalence rate when discussing non-medical abuse of prescription opiates are college-age youth. The non-medical use of pain relievers among this age group is also rising.
- More and more college students admit to abusing stimulants in order to pull an all-night study session or ‘get in the zone’ in order to complete homework assignments or essays. This habit is likely to develop during college. When comparing full-time college students with other people age 18 to 22, the college students are twice as likely to abuse prescription stimulants as those who are part-time students or not enrolled in college at all.
- By the time college students reach their sophomore year,approximately 50 percent of their classmates will have had a chance to abuse or experiment with a prescribed medication.
Social Control is Part of the Problem
One of the largest problems with prescription medication abuse is the fact that it may be almost impossible to identify those who exploit the system. For example, a resident assistant or campus police officer would be able to identify cannabis, heroin and cocaine quite easily, but prescription medication (provided it is in the original bottle) might not be so easy. This means that students who have a problem may continue to use without any social ramifications. Many students may not even know that their friend, teammate or roommate is abusing or misusing prescription medication.
Perceived Safety is Another Problem
Another major problem is the fact that most young adult college students see prescription stimulant abuse as somehow safer than using methamphetamine or cocaine to stay up all night. They do not make the connection between OxyContin and heroin, despite the fact that their origins are similar. The truth is that because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversee the testing of these medications, many students perceive them as ‘less harmful’ and ‘safer’ than illicit substances.
This makes it easier for people to share with others in the event that they have a few pills left over from their prescription. However, many of these medications have very dangerous side effects. For example, the abuse of Vicodin and OxyContin is directly related to suicidal thoughts and behaviors amongst college students. Despite the fact that these are legal medications that people need for genuine medical problems, the physician who prescribes them does so after taking a number of different factors into account.
For example, a physician is going to look at the person’s height, weight, history of the medication and possibly interacting medication. All of these factors are discussed with the patient. The physician, or at the very least the pharmacy, is likely to tell the patient what to avoid when using that medication. However, when someone just takes one or two pills in order to get a pleasant effect or a boost when studying, none of the aforementioned factors were taken into consideration. This could have very dangerous, possibly even fatal, results.
Despite the fact that sharing and selling prescription medication is illegal, many students see it as somewhat of a moral ‘gray area’. They understand that heroin and cocaine are illegal, but some still see prescribed drugs as legally ambiguous.
If you believe that you yourself or someone close to you has a problem with substance abuse, it is important to reach for help. Remember that while use may start gradually, it can lead to serious problems later on, especially if this person loses access to a substance he or she has built up a tolerance for.
Locating Addiction Help for Young Adults
Prescription Drug Abuse Among College Students Treatment Resources
If you are looking for help for a young adult who is attending University or looking to attend, there are a number of sober living and recovery options offered by the some Universities and nearby off campus. Call The Treatment Specialist to connect with a treatment center and learn more today about Prescription Drug Abuse college students and the treatment options at 866-644-7911.