College time comes with a new feeling of vast freedom, along with increased daily socialization and therefore – the notorious peer pressure. Freshmen are particularly prone to other people’s influence as they look to fit in and prove themselves in their new environment. Of course, there are cases where experimentation is not a direct consequence of social pressure, but a natural product of sheer curiosity.
In this context, one of the burning issues which definitely deserves more attention is prescription drug abuse. Lead by the “you only live once” motto, many students try out different drugs, while college administrators look away.
But, where does one draw a line? Tragically, prescription drug abuse in college is on the rise, particularly when it comes to cognitive stimulants.
The Problem of “Innocent” Experimentation
Besides alcohol, college students are known to recreationally consume marijuana, over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, as well as “party drugs”, such as ecstasy. Society seems to tolerate these types of experimentation, given the fact college is a time when students get exposed to increased amounts of stress while exploring the world and their personal identities. Be it an academic success or the fear of not achieving any admirable social status, students experience a lot of emotional and mental strain, which drives them to seek out different methods of unwinding. Unfortunately, more often than not, they develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Getting high on prescription drugs (i.e. using medications non-medically) is one of them: according to the report by the Ohio State University, 67.5% of students did so in college. The biggest problem here is that these drugs are easily accessible, while the “innocent” experimentation can turn into an addiction.
Reasons Behind Misuse
In addition to the recreational use and attempts of venting out, there are deeper reasons behind drug misuse. Drugs are consumed with the belief they can support academic success by increasing alertness, concentration, and memory. As a matter of fact, Adderall abuse has sparked much controversy specifically in this context. Also known as the “study drug”, Adderall is prescribed to patients diagnosed with the ADHD syndrome. The drug acts as a central nervous system stimulant: by increasing the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, it helps the patient focus, stay motivated, and alerted. Students misuse Adderall to pull off all-nighters, i.e. last minute study crammers, thinking the drug will give them cognitive superpowers. In addition to Adderall, pain relievers (opioids) are also popular. They are consumed in excessive amounts, which results in feeling high. Sedatives and tranquilizers are not as popular, but they find their way to the campus, as they help with reducing anxiety and regulating sleep.
Possible Solutions and Preventive Measures
Across colleges, one can notice a drug-sharing culture and even established markets where prescription medications get re-selled to peers or traded for some other type of drugs. Students that truly have medical conditions such as ADHD are frequently approached for prescriptions. Chances are these practices cannot be fully repressed, but there are some preventive measures that can be of use. The regulation has to come from healthcare providers, as well as pharmaceutical workers. In case there is a compulsive use of a certain prescription, it could serve as a pretty good sign there are some abusive practices hidden behind. Other prevention strategies include launching campaigns that would help in raising awareness regarding the dangers of drug misuse. There could be serious side-effects when healthy individuals use meds at their own risk, not to mention the possibility of getting addicted – especially because they generate tolerance over time. This side of the story is not widely discussed, opposed to the myth of getting perfect A’s with the support of stimulants.
Tackling the issue of misuse of prescription drugs is not an easy task, especially with the established student network and their ignorance. By consuming a drug that comes with a prescription, students have a false impression of safety. Maybe new legal measures and monitoring systems would help. Nevertheless, it is a problem and a serious one.