It’s no secret that college students love to party. Consuming mass quantities of alcohol while pursuing a higher education has almost become of rite of passage for young people who are away from home for the first time without adult supervision. But, you may be surprised to know that prescription drug abuse has also become a popular pastime for 18 to 25-year-olds attending colleges and universities around the United States. Statistics show that prescription drug abuse is on the rise on college campuses around the country. Students are taking more stimulants, tranquilizers, and opioids than ever.
Understanding Prescription Drug Abuse
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the “misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria or get high.” Many people make the common mistake of believing prescription medications are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor. However; prescription drugs can be very dangerous and even deadly. You only have to look at the statistics about opioids to understand how toxic prescription medications can be. Approximately 33,000 people die every year from opioid overdose from medications like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. You might be surprised to learn that prescription drug abuse causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdosing – more than cocaine and heroin. If you’re abusing prescription medications – watch out! You’re in dangerous territory.
What Prescription Medications Are College Students Taking?
The three most popular prescription medications among college students are stimulants, tranquilizers, and opioids. Let’s take a look at these three classifications of medications.
Legal Stimulants Help College Students Stay Up Longer
Cocaine, methamphetamines, and caffeine are all types of stimulants. These substances are known to increase alertness, produce a profound amount of energy, increase heart rate, and improve mental focus. Although we aren’t intending to suggest that cocaine and caffeine should be viewed in the same light, they do belong in the same category – they are stimulants most people are at least somewhat familiar with. They are all addictive substances not without consequences. But, did you know there are legal prescription stimulants prescribed by doctors to treat a number of different conditions? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD (previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD) is the most common. Stimulants are given to those with ADHD to help them focus because they have a surprisingly calming effect on the hyperactive brain. Simulants are also given to treat other conditions like obesity. The most common legal prescription stimulants are Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine. Basically, these are legal amphetamines. College students are abusing prescription stimulants because they help them stay up longer to pull all-night study sessions, manage the stress of heavy course loads, and recover from hangovers in time to take exams. Although you are supposed to get these kinds of stimulants from a doctor, many students buy them from classmates or purchase them on the black market.
Tranquilizers Calm Students Who Need Help Managing Stress
Tranquilizers are a classification of drug given to those who struggle with anxiety or insomnia. They are also given to people before a surgical procedure to help calm or sedate them. There are two types of tranquilizers – benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) and barbiturates (also known as “barbs”). Barbs were much more common in the 1970s and 80s. They have since been almost completely replaced by benzos, which are considered the safer alternative – although they are highly addictive and dangerous substances. The most common tranquilizers are Xanax, Valium, and Ambien. Students abuse tranquilizers to help them calm themselves from the stress of attending college. Many college students say they feel overwhelmed by their higher education experience and feel tremendous anxiety as a result. These prescription drugs are fast-acting, and they have a soothing and sedating effect. Like legal stimulants, tranquilizers should be obtained with a legal prescription from a doctor, but most students obtain them illegally.
College Is Painful And Opioids Offer Pain Relief
By now, most people have heard about prescription opioids. They have been splashed all over the news in recent months ever since the president declared the country’s opioid epidemic a national health emergency. Opioids are powerful pain-killing narcotic drugs prescribed by doctors to treat severe and chronic pain. They are derived from the opium poppy plant, which is grown in tropical climates around the world. The most common legal prescription opioids are Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Percocet. While college students seem to at least appear to have legitimate reasons for taking legal stimulants and tranquilizers, most students take opioids because they make them feel good and they want to catch a buzz. They joke that college is painful and opioids provide them with pain relief – not realizing that opioid use is nothing to joke about. Unfortunately, most young people are uneducated about the dangers of opioids. They make the mistake of believing that because they come from a doctor, they are entirely safe. They fail to understand that prescription opioids are highly addictive and incredibly difficult to quit. As is the case with stimulants and tranquilizers, most students purchase opioids from fellow classmates or dealers who distribute the stuff illegally.
Statistics About Prescription Drug Abuse On College Campuses
To understand the problem of prescription drug abuse on college campuses, here are some statistics that put the issue into perspective:
- Alcohol is still the number one drug of choice on college campuses. Marijuana is second. Prescription drugs come in third.
- One in four college students (between ages 18 and 20) have illegally used prescription medication.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), among people 18 to 22 years of age, full-time college students are twice as likely to use a stimulant for nonmedical reasons compared to those who aren’t in college or are only part-time students.
- By a student’s sophomore year in college, about half of them will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug.
- According to a recent study, 60 percent of nonmedical Adderall use in the United States is among young people ages 18 to 25.
- Research indicates there has been an astounding 450 percent increase in benzodiazepine use on college campuses in the past decade.
Are You A College Student Who Is Abusing Prescription Medication?
If you are in college and you have been abusing prescription medication, we want to warn you – stimulants, tranquilizers, and opioids are powerful drugs. Prescription drug abuse is a very serious problem that causes health problems, difficulties at work, legal consequences, family issues, and the degradation of the individual person. Once you become addicted, you will have to go through the painful process of withdrawal to get off the stuff. Withdrawal is what happens when your body becomes used to processing a certain drug and you take that drug away. It’s a devastating process you don’t want to endure. (You can learn more about opioid withdrawal here.) To avoid addiction and withdrawal, you should avoid prescription medication abuse.
Signs You May Already Be Hooked On A Prescription Drug
All the medications we have described in this blog lead to addiction. Here are a few signs that you might already be hooked:
- You’re using more medication that you planned to.
- You’re obsessed with using whatever drug you have been taking.
- You spend a lot of money on your drug of choice.
- You are lying about your drug use or hiding it from people you care about.
- People who care about you have expressed their concern about your drug use.
- You get anxious when you know you are about to run out of your stash.
- You put yourself in dangerous situations to get your drugs.
- Your drug use is interfering with work or school.
- You have changed your social circle to hang out with people who “get” why you use.
- You feel ashamed that you have to use drugs to function.
If you’re struggling with an addiction to prescription medication, talk to your parents or a counselor about how you can get help. You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. Tens of thousands of people die every year from a prescription medication overdose. We don’t want you to be next – you haven’t even earned that degree you’ve been working so hard to get!