Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
A quick look at the news and you’ll see several colleges and universities under scrutiny for the dangerous activities happening on college campuses – from fraternity parties that got out of hand to accusations of date rape and sexual assault. You have heard about the cases and reports, but have you noticed the one thing that is common in almost every one of them? Drug and alcohol abuse and misuse. While college students who are of the legal age are obviously allowed to drink alcohol, it is illegal for their fellow underclassmen who are under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, even in the presence of an adult. Add to the problem of underage drinking the fact that binge drinking is also a cause for concern among college students who drink and you’ll see why alcohol is the #1 most abused drug on college campuses.
Perhaps you knew that already. But did you know college students are also abusing things like prescribed medication (that is often obtained illegally) and even energy drinks? We think you should know the facts.
The Abuse of OxyContin Among Adults 18-25
The CDC reports nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs and the misuse of drugs. Their studies also show that 120 people die everyday due to drug overdose, and 3 out of 4 (75%) of the medication overdose deaths were caused by addictive pain killers, including OxyContin (1). Think this is a problem just among older adults? Think again. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health recently published data on the use of drugs among youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Their findings show that next to marijuana, the abuse of prescription drugs is the second most abused drug activity among this age group.
OxyContin (oxycodone) OxyContin is an oral medication used to treat moderate to severe pain through a slow, steady release of opioids, drugs that attach to the opioid receptors of the brain and other organs of the body to reduce the perception of pain. This narcotic pain reliever should only be used when prescribed by a doctor, and should only be taken as directed. The problem is kids and young adults are able to illegally get oxycodone for the sole purpose of “getting high.”
Studies conducted by the University of Michigan (Monitoring the Future Study) revealed that at least “3 percent of full-time college students in the United States take OxyContin without a prescription in a given year.” The study also reported, “It (OxyContin) is now a widely abused drug among college students nationwide. In fact, it’s considered the most abused prescription drug in the United States, and each year the number of students overdosing on the drug rises.” (2)
Since the drug is legal, easily attainable and cheap, it’s not hard for college students to get it. They either get from a parent’s medicine cabinet, a friend’s prescription, or unfortunately buy the pills from drug dealers. Because OxyContin is a narcotic, it is extremely addictive, which is why students who abuse the drug have a hard time quitting.
How College Students Abuse Energy Drinks
Energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster are not considered drugs or alcohol. They are simply beverages with high amounts of stimulants like caffeine, ginseng or guarana. By themselves, energy drinks are not harmful, unless you drink too many. However, mixing the energy drink with alcohol, something that is not uncommon on college campuses, can lead to serious problems.
The CDC’s Fact Sheet on Caffeine and Alcohol reports that drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks are 3 times more likely to binge drink and are 2 times more likely to either be the victim of or commit sexual assault than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks. (3)
Brown University recently shared a report on the misuse of alcohol by mixing it with energy drinks on college campuses. Their studies found that what makes this combination so dangerous is that the caffeine and alcohol have opposite effects on the heart rate, which can lead to the impairing of judgement, since the caffeine speeds up the heart rate, while the alcohol slows it down. Common problems that occur when people abuse alcohol in this way include respiratory depression, alcohol poisoning, and even driving while impaired, since often a person who drinks an energy drink laced with alcohol can not perceive how impaired they really are. (4)
How College Students Abuse The ADHD Drug, Adderall
Another prescription drug that college students in particular abuse is Adderall (or Ritalin). Adderall is considered a stimulant that increases the level of dopamine released in the brain in order to keep the brain calm. The drug is commonly prescribed for people with ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hypertension disorder). When dopamine is released in the brain, it allows us to focus and keep our minds attentive.
The Journal of American College Health published research that shows 34% of college students in their study admitted to taking drugs like Adderall illegally. (5) Some of the students indicated that the reason they use Adderall even without a prescription is because it helps them relieve stress, retain information, pay attention and keeps them from getting fatigued or overly tired during exams. With this perceived positive results of using drugs like Adderall, college students don’t even consider the negative consequences of illegal drug use. They also don’t realize that drugs like Adderall can be addictive. Anything that overstimulates the brain can lead to a dependence, making it hard to stop taking it. What’s more, drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are classified as Schedule II substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA). Other substances in this same class include cocaine, meth and morphine.
Please Talk To Your Children, Teens & College Students About Drugs
Because drugs and alcohol are getting introduced to children sooner as sooner, we encourage you to talk to your children about the dangers and risks these substances can cause on their young minds and bodies. Many times, by the time students get to college, they have already been using drugs and abusing alcohol in their teens. While others try drugs for the first time because their peers are using them and they want to fit in. For a great resource for speaking to your child about the dangers of alcohol (and other substances), visit Talk It Out NC.
(1) CDC Statistics on Drug Overdoses
(2) National Survey on Drug Use and Health
(3) CDC Fact Sheets – Caffeine and Alcohol
(4) Brown University Study on Energy Drinks Mixed With Alcohol
(5) CNN Article and Report on College Students’ Use of Adderall
DrugWatch.com – Students’ Use/Abuse of Drugs
DrugAbuse.gov – Research and Reports on Prescription Drugs – What Are Opiods?
EverydayHealth.com – Adderall Abuse