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Prescription drug abuse is an ongoing problem for college students

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Abusing prescription medication is becoming an outlet for some students

Students continue to abuse prescription medication to improve grades, reduce stress, stay awake and increase focus.

When you have been staring at a blank computer screen for two hours while your roommate is jamming out to music, it’s easy to want to shut out the noise so you can finally focus.

When it feels like your eyes weigh 10 pounds while your phone keeps lighting up, it’s hard not to give up on your 10-page paper - which, by the way, is due in 20 minutes.

Some students finish their homework, while other students turn to different outlets: abusing prescription medication.

About 25 percent of Doane students abuse prescriptions, according to the 2015 Spring National College Health Assessment.

These medications usually include antidepressants, painkillers and stimulants. One of the most common medications abused by college students is Adderall, an amphetamine stimulant prescribed for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

A student takes Adderall usually to improve overall focus and trying to stay awake during the night to crank out deadline assignments and papers. Other medications, such as painkillers, are abused to get high, reduce stress or improve grades.

“Specifically with the stimulants and the ADD meds, I think students hear that it’s done something desired in somebody else and they want that same desired effect of the drug,” said Kelly Jirovec, director of Student Health.

The first time senior Eric Weers was introduced to Adderall was during his junior year at Doane.

A friend of his asked if he could take the pills with her one time. The medication caused him to stay awake the whole night and all of the next day while making his blood pressure and heart rate increase. The experience made him realize he would never take Adderall again, he said.

“I remember feeling like crap the next day,” Weers said. “It didn’t achieve any high. I don’t know why people would do that.”

Adderall triggers more extreme side effects to different people, including vomiting, uncontrollable shaking, fainting and a fever, according to the Addiction Center. Students are also at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning if they are on stimulants because they mask symptoms of intoxication.

Doane usually sees a few reports a year of students stealing prescription medication, said Russ Hewitt, director of Safety. When a student reports their medication missing, the Safety Office first advises that law enforcement is involved.

“If you’re dealing or stealing medication, most likely the law enforcement is already involved because the victim has already contacted them before they contact us,” Hewitt said.

Usually the thief knows the person with the medication enough to know where it’s stored and when the owner will be away, Hewitt said. To keep your medication safe, it’s advised to secure your room, hide your medication in an unknown spot and limit the number of people you tell that you are on medication.

Stealing and abusing prescribed medication is a felony and the student can be arrested, lose their federal financial aid and be suspended by the college. Dealing medication comes with larger consequences, including being removed from residential housing or expelled from the college.

“If you’ve broken into someone’s room to steal something, you’re more than likely not going to be living here anymore,” Hewitt said. “If we can’t trust you in the community to not enter other people’s rooms and take things, then that’s a significant issue and a violation of trust.”

Not all students report their medication stolen, Hewitt said. A lot of the time the bottle contains only a few pills left and the student doesn’t notice right away when they go missing.

According to an anonymous source, some people taking Adderall aren’t allowed to have more than a 30-day supply. They are also subject to pill counts every month and random drug testing by federal law.

“People abusing prescription drugs is why the people who legally need them are treated like criminals,” said the anonymous source. “I need it to function, this isn’t an optional thing. It makes it really hard. There’s already so many hoops you have to jump through, why add more?”

Abusing prescription medication can alter the lifestyle of anyone, especially a college student. It changes behavior, increases mood including paranoia and temper and can lead the student to missing classes.

If you see a student struggling, there are many ways to help. It is important to utilize bystander intervention tips by intervening, contacting a mutual friend, referring them to resources or contacting the Safety Office.

“If someone has developed a problem with a habit forming drug or painkillers, getting caught might be the first opportunity to go get help before it turns into a problem,” Hewitt said. “By letting us know, no matter how small the signs are, or reporting it to the police, you might save the person in the future.”