An Ohio State study found that 16 percent of college students misuse stimulant medications in an attempt to help them enhance their grades and cope with college life.
In addition to stimulants, the study found that about 9 percent of students said they misuse pain medications. About the same percentage reported misuse reported misuse of sedatives.
The 2018 College Prescription Drug Study consisted of 19,539 anonymous responses from random surveys completed by undergraduate, graduate and professional students from 26 different institutions across the United States.
“What motivated us was really having conversations with our partners here on campus, the Student Wellness and College of Pharmacy, about some of the things they were seeing, what students were asking about and talking about on campus,” said Erica Phillips, associate director of Ohio State’s Center for the Study of Student Life. “In order for them to do their jobs and create the best education and prevention programs they can, they want the hard data and facts behind it.”
Researchers asked students a variety of questions dealing with their use of prescription drugs, and the medications specifically asked about fell into three main categories: stimulants, pain medications and sedatives.
Anne McDaniel, executive director of Ohio State’s Center for the Study of Student Life and the principal investigator of the CPDS, said the study asked students about specific prescriptions in each category. Stimulant medications included Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine. Pain medications included Vicodin, Percodan and Oxycontin, and sedative medications included Valium, Ambien and Xanax.
According to the study, the majority of students who said they misuse stimulant medications, about 8-in-10, do it to study or improve grades. The two most common reasons students reported misusing pain medications were to get high and to relieve pain. Sedatives were used as sleeping aids and anxiety relievers.
Phillips said misuse occurs when someone uses their medication in a way their doctor did not intend or past the point their doctor told them to. Taking non-prescribed drugs or giving prescription drugs to others is also classified as misuse.
The majority of students who misuse prescription drugs reported that they typically obtain them from friends and family members, researchers say.
McDaniel said a key finding of the survey was that a majority of college students are not misusing prescription drugs.
“Sixteen percent is not the majority, but for those who are misusing, it’s important to educate students on the potential consequences,” McDaniel said.
The study found that out of all prescription medication users, only 8 percent of all students said they keep them in a locked space.
One way to be a safe, responsible prescription owner is to lock all medications in a safe or a drawer, McDaniel said.
Ohio State offers resources like Generation Rx and Collegiate Recovery Community for students who are seeking information, support or recovery.