College is a difficult time in a young person's life. It is usually the first time that a student has ever been on their own and the first time that a student can ever meaningfully lose out on educational opportunities due to bad scholastic performance. Students need to juggle their studies, their social engagements, and mundane responsibilities like laundry, food, and sleep. This requires time management skills that most students have never learned.
Faced with overwhelming demands on their time, many students find themselves overwhelmed by stress. In fact, as many as 40% of students feel stressed often and as many as 20% feel stressed nearly all the time. In many students, this stress is a factor in depression, causing 10% of college students to suffer depression. Faced with nearly impossible time demands, high levels of stress, and possibly depression, 20% of college students abuse prescription stimulants in order to cope or self medicate.
Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
Unsurprisingly, the most common drugs abused by college students are drugs prescribed for ADHD like Ritalin or Adderall. Besides the fact that stimulants help students "add time" to their day by artificially keeping them awake, even when their body needs rest, as many as 11% of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011. This means it is relatively easy for college students to get their hands on ADHD prescription drugs. But just because these are prescription drugs, that doesn't mean they are safe when abused without a prescription.
Stimulants have numerous dangerous and even potentially deadly side effects. Like any drug, addiction is a real and likely possibility of stimulant use. If this addiction isn't fed regularly, abusers will usually suffer massive fatigue and depression. When stimulants are used in abundance, either to stave off fatigue or to feed an addiction, the abuser will often become paranoid, hostile, and violent. There is even a danger of heart failure with large enough doses of stimulants. Many of these side effects appear quickly and without warning.
Combating the Problem
Prescription drug abuse is simply a problem that can't be ignored. The high percentage of college students that abuse prescription drugs reveals that this is a problem that is literally threatening the future of society. Already many universities have recognized the problem of prescription drug abuse and are taking positive steps to combat it. But a proactive solution only helps the future generations. The current generation is still crippled by this epidemic.
The word epidemic makes an important point. Those who abuse prescription drugs aren't criminals. They are victims. And like all other victims they need help and support. They need family and friends who will provide both physical and mental support to get past their addiction. They also need to be enrolled in a comprehensive drug rehabilitation program that doesn't only help free them from the addiction, but helps keep them from returning to the addiction in the future. A program that simply cleans the drugs from their system and treats the withdrawal symptoms does nothing to prevent relapse. Prescription drug abusers need a more comprehensive program that incorporates counseling, support by friends and family, and creates a plan to avoid future relapse.
College students may be one of the most common groups to abuse prescription stimulants, but they aren't the only ones who do. Anyone who abuses stimulants to cope with stress, self medicate, or get more done needs to receive the right kind of support and assistance to escape the dangers of drug abuse.