Prescription drug use has become one of our nation’s fastest growing drug problems, particularly among college students. According to a recent report from the Clinton Foundation, prescription drug use on college campuses across the nation rose significantly between 1993 and 2005. There was a 343 percent increase in the use of Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet and other pain-killing opioids, while use of prescription Ritalin, Adderall and other stimulants rose by 93 percent.
Prescription Medications and Painkillers Most Abused on College Campuses
Prescription drugs, when not properly prescribed or taken, can easily become as dangerous as illicit narcotics. This is particularly true when people take more than the recommended dosage, build up a tolerance to its effect or become addicted. Talkaboutrx.org lists the following prescription drugs among those most commonly abused by college students:
- Stimulants including Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall. These types of drugs are most commonly prescribed to help treat narcolepsy or ADHD. When stimulants such as these are misused or abused in an effort to get a temporary “high,” continued use can lead to painful headaches, convulsions, dangerous rises in blood pressure, as well as increased difficulties with respiration or added heart strain.
- Sedatives or tranquilizers such as Valium, Xanax and Ambien. These particular drugs are often prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks and sleep disorders. Abuse can lead to blurry vision, depression, hostility, bladder troubles, seizures and other problems associated with the central nervous system.
- Opioid analgesics including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet and Methadone. These painkillers are most commonly prescribed following surgery. In some instances, an opioid may be prescribed to address other types of debilitating pain not associated with surgery. Abuse of opioid analgesics will often lead to respiratory problems, confusion, seizures, blurred vision, nausea and other serious complications.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
It is not uncommon for students to find themselves struggling to keep up with the day-to-day demands of college life. The stress of being away from home, class assignments, strict program requirements, peer pressure, temptation and lack of parental supervision can all lead to college-age students turning to prescription drugs to help them get through the day. In some instances, students may even use prescription drugs as a way to lift their spirits or get high with friends.
Common signs a college student may be abusing or misusing prescription drugs:
- Sudden or gradual decline in academic performance
- Dramatic change in weight (loss or gain)
- Outbursts of violence
- Lack of interest in school activities
- Seclusion or isolation from friends
- Exhaustion or overly tired
- Extreme agitation
- Loss of focus
While these and other warning signs may indicate that prescription drugs are being misused or abused, the above can also be signs of other conditions or problems which should be addressed. The only way to be sure is to talk to your college student. Inquire about his or her life. Be interested and offer the support that may be desperately needed.
- Clinton Foundation: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/blog/2014/01/12/rising-epidemic-college-campuses-prescription-drug-abuse
- Talk About Rx.org: http://www.talkaboutrx.org/documents/GetTheFacts.pdf
- Dual Diagnosis: http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-addiction/college-drug-abuse/#tips