In light of drastic global changes, college students are experiencing much higher stress levels than in decades prior. Today’s college students struggle with heavy course loads, a competitive job market, and an uncertain future. As a result, desperate college students have turned to prescription medications to remedy these concerns. But when students take medications they don’t require for the treatment of an illness or disorder, there can be dire consequences.
Recent studies show that 20% of college students misuse prescription medications by consuming medications that are not prescribed to them. In the past, people believed that only high-achieving students use study drugs in an attempt to boost their academic performance. However, recent reports show that many students who use study drugs are also those that consume alcohol and other substances on the weekends. Regardless of a student’s motivation for using study drugs, the consequences can be serious if they develop a dependence on these substances.
As with any health issue, prevention is much more effective than obtaining treatment for an illness that has already taken hold of a person. When college students are well-informed about the perils of study drugs, the likelihood that they will fall into the throes of substance misuse and addiction is reduced. Educational institutions that arm students with knowledge and the tools necessary to reduce illegal prescriptions will prepare students for a bright future.
What Are “Study Drugs?”
Prescription stimulants, also referred to as “study drugs,” are most commonly misused on college campuses. Recent statistics show that one in five college students misuse stimulant medication. These medications include amphetamines called Adderall, Dexedrine, or Vyvanse. There are also Ritalin and Concerta, which are composed of methylphenidate.
Doctors prescribe these medications to treat ADHD, but students who do not have ADHD may take them because they believe they will improve their academic performance. While stimulant medication often enhances focus and concentration for individuals with ADHD, the effects are not the same for neurotypical students. When a student without ADHD takes stimulant medication, they may note improved focus or energy, but the prescriptions will not improve their ability to absorb information.
The Pitfalls of Study Drugs
When students obtain stimulant medication for ADHD, they are under a doctor’s supervision throughout the entire process. In this instance, students maintain regular contact with a medical professional who will monitor them for any side effects, which may include the following:
- Poor appetite
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Nervousness and anxiety
In addition, stimulants can also cause irritability, mood swings, and headaches. Some people who misuse stimulant medications at high doses may experience heart attacks or seizures. When college students mix study drugs with alcohol or over-the-counter medications, these side effects are more likely to occur.
When students begin taking study drugs, they often consider the act harmless, especially when using stimulant medication is normalized. Students often believe that they will take these medications for a short period of time, such as getting through finals week. However, many students find it challenging to stop misusing stimulant medications and instead grow dependent on them. When these students attempt to quit, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression, tiredness, or sleep problems.
Furthermore, health risks are not the only peril of using study drugs. When students are caught sharing, selling, or using prescription drugs, they may be suspended from school or even face criminal charges.
How Can Educational Institutions Protect Students?
Provide Substance Misuse Education
It is of the utmost importance that students know how to use and manage their medications safely. Educational institutions must teach teens and young adults how to navigate the responsibilities of their newfound independence. Students must know how to safely use their prescribed medications by using discretion when referring to them and closely following their doctor’s orders. In addition, educational institutions must provide access to adequate counseling and ensure that students know the signs of substance misuse.
Distribute Secure Pill Bottles for Prescription Medications
New college students will need more than knowledge to ensure safe prescription use. They also need access to tools that allow them to protect the prescriptions that they currently have. Surveys show that 60% of prescription drugs are obtained from friends, roommates, or classmates, often without the owner’s knowledge. Students may not have access to locking medicine cabinets or drawers in small dorms or college apartments. To mitigate this issue, education institutions should consider supplying students with secure pill bottles so unauthorized individuals cannot access prescriptions.
Establish Partnerships with Local Rehabilitation Centers
College students are at a high risk of developing an addiction due to increased stress and pressure to fit in with their peers. Many different rehab environments assist people who struggle with substance misuse, and many of them work with colleges so that students may work towards achieving their career goals while maintaining sobriety.
Carefully structured outpatient rehab allows students to schedule time outside treatment facilities for classes and homework. In severe cases of substance misuse, students may work with an inpatient center on summer breaks to continue their education during the fall and winter semesters. When educational institutions partner with rehabilitation programs, it assures both students and parents that help is available whenever they’re in need.
Protect Your Students
Educational institutions have a responsibility to do more than provide students with the knowledge necessary to begin a successful career. The college experience exists to produce well-rounded students that grow into thriving professionals and healthy human beings. When universities and colleges provide students with the tools to safely consume their prescription medications, it ensures that students are one step closer to a healthy lifestyle.
This includes keeping medications secure and out of reach. 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 a secure 4-digit code.
Parents founded Safe Rx to create a safer world for their children, and we encourage other parents to do the same. If you’re interested in learning more about how Safe Rx can promote medication safety and help keep your teen safe at college, contact us today!