One of the stereotypes about life in college is the ubiquitous idea of the party scene. Throughout the media and in many real-life situations, college kids are portrayed as a demographic of wild, alcohol-infused weekend warriors who love to have a good old drunken time.
Of course, not everyone in school is like this. There are thousands of responsible, dedicated students that certainly do not fall under this umbrella. However, there is a different trend that I feel needs to be addressed because of its growing popularity amongst young adults — prescription pill abuse.
An increasing number of adolescents and college students are finding new ways to get buzzed, stay focused or experiment with recreational substances by means of prescription drugs. The costs are enormous, both literally and figuratively.
According to a March 15, 2007, report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, nearly half of all college students in America admit to binge drinking on a regular basis. That really isn’t great news, but at the same time, it doesn’t sound too shocking.
What about marijuana use? The Center for Disease Control reports that in 2007, 31.8 percent of college students had smoked weed in the past year. Again, this is pretty high statistic, but still not too surprising.
What about the percentage of kids getting high from the rather covert, taboo method of prescription pills? According to the website drugtreatmentrehab.com, a 2005 study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that 19 percent of teenagers — almost one in five — admitted to using prescription pills to get high.
Many college kids are familiar with the drugs Adderall and Ritalin, which are used to treat ADHD and, many times, the person taking these pills claims they do so simply for the academic edge it gives them in class, not just to get a buzz. However, both drugs are amphetamine-based stimulants that are chemically similar to cocaine.
I personally used to have a legal prescription for Ritalin for the treatment of ADHD and I am still amazed at how many people, many of whom I did not even know, wanted to buy pills from me. Some of them I knew had substance abuse problems. Some of them were people I never suspected to be the “pharming” type. Some of them even asked me if I knew where they could buy cocaine. It was ridiculous, to put it lightly.
Although behavioral medications are very popular among young adults, several reports have been conducted in recent years showing that the full effect of these medications is not fully understood and taking them whenever you feel is an incredibly risky idea.
However, Ritalin and Adderall are not the only dangerous pill-popping trends. Painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs such as Vicodin, Lortab, Valium, Oxycontin and Xanax are also popular and readily accessible. According to the article “Prescription Drug Abuse Among High Schoolers” from drugtreatmentrehab.com, “teenagers may feel less stigma about taking pills because they see them as medicine.” According to a 2005 study conducted by Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 4.3 million teenagers report they have abused the prescription Vicodin.
The same study also states that many adolescents start experimenting just by digging through their medicine cabinets at home. How could getting high be any easier? But taking a pill designed to treat someone either in severe pain or who is dealing with serious depression or anxiety issues can reap no benefits for someone who doesn’t actually need the drug. Many of these painkiller pills are opioids, which means they are a derivative of opiate chemicals. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal.
Look at this way: what else is an opiate? Heroin. I’m not necessarily saying if you start popping a few Vicodin you’re going to turn into a smack junkie, but one pill can lead to two. Two pills can lead to three or four. That could in turn lead to stronger prescriptions like morphine or methadone. Then what happens when your nervous system gets used to stronger doses? What starts out as a seemingly innocent experiment could lead a person down a very dark, narrow and short path.