Many people legitimately need prescription drugs at some point in their life, and college students are no exception. However, recent studies show that 62% of college students report having at least one peer who struggles with prescription misuse. In fact, young adults in college are particularly vulnerable to developing a substance use disorder. Why? Because they are undergoing significant lifestyle changes, academic stress, and new challenges — all at the same time.
So, how can you protect students, combat prescription misuse, and promote medication safety at your school? First, let’s establish why medication safety matters at all.
Why Is Medication Safety Important?
Prescription drugs can be incredibly beneficial when used properly. But when these medications aren’t used as prescribed, there is a high risk that students will develop a substance use disorder over time.
Unfortunately, certain medications have effects that are attractive for recreational purposes or as study drugs, making them a tempting target for misuse. This means that medication safety should be a critical point in your student life campaigns — both to educate on the potential dangers and advise students with prescriptions on how to protect their medication supply.
Drugs Commonly Misused by Students:
- Stimulants. Out of all medications, college students most commonly misuse stimulants, with recent studies showing that 3.1 million students have misused stimulants during their time at school. Doctors often prescribe stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin to treat ADHD, but students who do not need this medication may use it to study for exams. Although stimulants are not proven effective for those who do not need them, many college students mistakenly believe that they will boost their academic performance.
- Sedatives. College students are subject to stress that they may not have experienced before. In addition, more young adults struggle with general and social anxiety than previous generations. As a result, many students turn to sedatives such as benzodiazepines to calm their nerves. However, only 20% of people who misuse benzodiazepines have a prescription from a doctor. Most people obtain this medication from family or friends — so it’s important to keep such prescriptions secure.
- Painkillers. Opioids, which are a form of painkillers, also pose a risk for college students. While some students may be interested in experimenting with the drug to “get high,” others risk developing a substance use disorder under innocent circumstances. When students experience a car accident, injury, or even toothache, doctors often prescribe opioids like Vicodin, Oxycontin, or Percocet to alleviate pain. However, these prescription medications have a high potential for misuse.
How to Support Medication Safety on College Campuses
When young adults have the tools to maintain good mental health, it improves their educational experience. This includes navigating the potential dangers of medication misuse.
Colleges should provide education and resources for safe prescription use to ensure students have everything they need to succeed. Check out the following tips to promote medication safety on your college campus.
1. Host Safety Awareness Events and Seminars
Prescription drug misuse is becoming more prevalent across the U.S. Many experts attribute this to the fact there are simply more prescription drugs available, while others place the blame on doctors for writing so many prescriptions. It’s also easier for college students to get medications online than in the past.
Whatever the cause for this increase in prescription drug misuse, college students are in great need of prescription drug safety awareness. In the College Prescription Drug Study by Ohio State University, only 8% of students stated that they keep their prescription drugs in a locked place. Most students keep their prescription drugs in an unlocked medicine cabinet or a drawer, which increases the risk of their medication falling into the wrong hands.
To teach students about best practices for their medications and the dangers of prescription misuse, consider holding regular medication safety awareness events and seminars.
2. Give Students the Tools for Medication Safety
Recent surveys show that 60% of prescription drugs were obtained from friends, roommates, or classmates, including medications that were taken without the owner’s knowledge. But not every student has access to locked drawers or medicine cabinets, and some may need to keep their prescriptions with them in an unsecured pocket or backpack. So how can they protect their medications from theft and misuse?
Educational institutions can help protect these students and their peers by providing tools for medication safety. This may include putting secure pill bottles on freshman packing lists or offering them during student orientations. Colleges can also make secure pill bottles available at the campus clinic or sell them in the bookstore. And to encourage the use of these security measures, why not offer them in school colors? By normalizing medication safety, you can help the whole student body take a more careful approach to prescription misuse.
3. Provide Access to Education and Mental Health Services
While college students may make the conscious choice to misuse a medication, they do not intentionally choose to develop a substance use disorder. This disease develops over time, often as a direct result of unresolved mental health issues. Educational institutions can do their part to reduce instances of substance misuse amongst their students by providing access to mental health services.
Surveys from the American Council on Education show that 68% of university presidents said their students’ mental health is one of their most pressing issues. Schools that invest in mental health services note a positive impact on academic performance and the improved mental well-being of their students.
In addition, increased access to mental services is known to improve student retention rates. Most importantly, counselors and other mental health professionals can educate students about how they can use the prescribed medication safely and effectively.
Promote Medication Safety with Safe Rx
College students are at high risks of developing a substance use disorder, and your institution must do its part to prevent prescription misuse by investing in tools and programs that promote medication safety. Not sure where to start? Providing students with secure pill bottles is an easy and actionable first step toward safer college campuses.
At Safe Rx, we know that medication safety begins with reducing unauthorized access to prescriptions. That’s why Safe Rx locking pill bottles allow students to protect their prescription medications with either a preset or custom 4-digit code to ensure that no one else can access them.
Parents founded Safe Rx to create a safer world for their children, and we encourage educational institutions to do the same. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can bring Safe Rx to your college campus, contact us today!