A Slippery Slope: the Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse
While alcohol abuse and binge drinking still top the list of substance abuse issues on college campuses, the non-medical use of prescription drugs—most notably stimulants, sedatives and pain relievers—is a growing, yet unaddressed problem (SAMHSA). In fact, about one in four college students have illegally used prescription drugs, and many more have been offered these medications by friends or fellow students.
Many students may not even realize that they, their roommate, teammate or friend are misusing or abusing these medications, most of which are controlled substances and, therefore, illegal to use without a prescription. When used the right way and under a doctor’s supervision, prescription drugs are safe and effective in treating countless medical conditions. But taking these medications the wrong way or without a prescription puts young lives at risk (SAMHSA).
Someone is misusing a prescription medication if they: take a medication that is prescribed to them differently or at a higher dose than is recommended by their healthcare professional to alleviate symptoms or try to self-medicate with someone else’s medication. For example, popping a friend’s Percocet (prescription pain medicine) to get rid of a headache or asking a roommate for a stimulant to pull an all-night study session before a big exam.
Intentionally using a prescription drug to experiment with it, feel good or get “high” is an example of prescription drug abuse. Someone who abuses prescription medications is also likely to combine them with alcohol and/or crush pills and then snort or inject them to get a quicker, more intense high.
Whatever the reason, using these medications without a prescription or medical oversight of their risks can lead to addiction, overdose and even death. It’s also illegal.
Many students mistakenly believe prescription medications are safe because they are FDA approved and prescribed by a doctor. But all medications have risks and they are only safe when taken as directed by the person for whom they were prescribed. Misusing or abusing prescription medications is dangerous. It can jeopardize a person’s future and lead to long-term health problems.
Abusing prescription medications can lead to:
- Increases in blood pressure or heart rate
- Organ damage
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart Attack
Students who think they or someone they know has a problem should consult their resident assistant, peer health educator, college student health services, family doctor or by finding a local treatment center by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s online treatment center locator at SAMHSA.
Students interested in becoming a Peer Health Educator or Graduate Assistant for Student Health Promotion should contact our health educator at 404-413-1577, or at [email protected].