Recreational Prescription Drug Use Continues to Plague College Campuses

Gabriella Tutino



It’s finals week; you’ve been studying in the library for a good six hours and feel your concentration slipping away. The numerous coffees and Redbulls you’ve consumed haven’t helped either. A friend of yours uses Adderall to help him study, and you’ve taken it before as well. Desperate to focus, you call him up and buy a few tablets that will last you the week.


This is a common case of prescription drug abuse on college campuses. But there are other scenarios as well—taking more than the prescribed dosage, using the various pills to party, and mixing them with alcohol use are all ways that people have abused prescription drugs.


According to Drug Free World, “In the US alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin.”


On top of that, a 2010 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 22 percent of college students take part in illicit drug use, and that roughly 6 percent of adults aged 18-25 take prescription drugs for nonmedical uses.


While college is meant to be the best four years of a student’s life, it can also be a  stressful time, and there are many pressures placed on students to achieve. Students can get prescription drugs to treat almost any issue: sleeplessness, anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks, and the occasional serious injury (broken bones). The common players are usually big-time drugs: Ambien, Oxyconton, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin and Vicodin.


Chris*, a college graduate, has used prescription drugs recreationally. Having been prescribed both Xanax and Ambien in the past, Chris would take drugs “according to how [he] felt.”


“I abused the prescription at times, taking the drugs for fun instead of for as needed,” Chris admits. “Oxycoton was very prominent on campus, and could be bought from athletes, or others who were prescribed the drug by their doctors.  Adderall and Ritalin were probably the easiest to get on campus…people with ADD or ADHD would sell their pills for money, usually five dollars a pill…Many of my friends, as well as myself, would use these drugs to help study, stay up late, or take while drinking to intensify the effects.”


While students might take prescription drugs for the “high” feeling, it’s dangerous and lethal. Abusing prescription stimulants can result in death, addiction, respiratory problems, seizures and cardiovascular issues, such as an irregular heartbeat, according to a report by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. And prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than street drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


So why is it commonplace on campus? An article from ABC2news highlights that some students don’t perceive it as abuse, and that there’s not enough data on the trend.


The best course of action, it seems, would be to educate students and raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. Ambien, for example, has been linked to several sleep-driving incidents since 2006 (an article in women’s magazine Marie Claire being the most recent one). But in light of these events, the college drug culture is still big.


Says Chris: “Ambien is by far the scariest drug I have ever taken.  I hate how it is joked about in movies and popular culture because Ambien is a very powerful drug….However, I found that Ambien does not simply make you go to sleep, but rather makes it feel like your brain is asleep, and not your body.  If you do not lay in bed and "put your body to sleep" after taking the drug, than you will not fall asleep, but rather have an awake body with an asleep brain.  You feel like a complete zombie, and it is the scariest feeling in the world.”


Chris hasn’t abused drugs since he graduated.

*Named changed for safety of student’s identity.


Author Bio:

Gabriella Tutino is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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