Healthcare Prescription Drug Abuse On-Campus Term Paper

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(Raeburn, 2002, p. 127)

Clearly, college life presents it sown situations that are conducive to the creation, or exaggeration, of psychological disorders in individuals.

College is a time of change, and change can produce stress; however, as it is to be noted that a certain amount of substance abuse appears to be a part of the regular college experience.

All forms of SUD are relatively prevalent in young adulthood, suggesting that perhaps substance involvement is more related to developmental and social factors associated with this stage of life as opposed to stable individual differences. (Sher, 2003, p. 167)

This not to say that individual problems with prescription drug abuse do not exist in the nation's colleges and universities, but that the root causes, and more importantly, the nature of the "prescription drug abuse problem" might be quite different from that which obtains among the adult population. David Degrazia (Degrazia, 2000, p. 34) recounts the story of a woman, nearly thirty-years-old, who personally requested a prescription for Prozac from her physician. The woman had always managed quite well in childhood, and even in college, and had appeared to have attained her career goals up to that point. Degrazia concludes that the woman had successfully dealt with the problems of college life through the medium of several close friendships (Degrazia, 2000, p. 34) - another point that underscores the significance of anxiety-producing factors in encouraging "abuse" of prescription drugs, in this case, the anti-depressant Prozac. This case is interesting, furthermore, because it illustrates a common feature of college life; the prevalence of close friendships, of support networks that would tend to mitigate against the need the feelings of isolation and alienation that so often produce anxiety disorders. The college environment, in this respect, is quite different from the later work environment. To a far greater degree than that found in college or university, the world of work is one of almost hyper-individualism, with one aspiring career-oriented man or woman competing against another. In addition, college students possess the advantage of a network of school counselors who can provide some level of professional help and support, much as drug counselors provide help to adults battling addiction (Freeman, 2001, p. 374).

In short, while drug abuse may be a problem in the context of college life, it does not tend to be a problem of prescription drugs. The college environment is, on the whole, quite different from the adult world of work. College students are subjected to a great deal of pressure - pressure to conform to particular images of body and self - but they also possess resources of community, close friends, and professional counselors, that are much more likely to be lacking in the adult world. College students are at considerable risk of substance abuse, but this, at this stage of social and personal development, is more commonly symptomatic of a general tendency among that particular age group. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are typically abused by adults who have already made the transition into the much lonelier and far more isolated world that lies beyond the campus. Prescription medications can and will be abused on America's college campuses, but they are not likely to be the enormous problem that government figures may assert them to be. Indeed, figures themselves tell little of the reality of the situation. For if users are considered only in so far as they add "one more" to the statistical pile, the abuser is not separated form the user; those who genuinely require the assistance of medication are being lumped in with those who overuse, or make use for no legitimate medical reason, of potentially powerful medications.

Methods and Materials

Object of Study

The researcher will conduct a study the purpose of which will be to determine to what extent, if any, a problem exists with the abuse of prescription drugs at American colleges and universities.

Setting of Study

The study will be conducted at a mid-sized American university in a suburban campus setting. This setting has been chosen, not only because it is typical of so many American colleges and universities, but because the somewhat isolated, insular setting allows other variables to be eliminated, such as the influence of a nearby urban environment, or other sizeable community, which might result in many students' living a lifestyle that is not largely bounded by the campus itself.

Participants in the Study

Fifty college students will participate in this study. Participants will consist of males and females of various ages. Participants will be grouped according to five Age Categories:

A. 18-21

B. 22-25

C. 26-30

D. 31-40

E. 40 and up

Participants in the study will be chosen to reflect, as accurately as possible, the actual age breakdown of students at the participating university, in order to insure that results are not skewed by the disproportionate participation of any one age group, or gender.

Study Instrument

The study instrument (see Appendix a) will consist of a sixteen (16) question Survey that will be distributed to each participant. Participants' will be specifically questioned on the use of prescription sleeping pills - as opposed to any other kind of prescription medication - so as to focus the study on a single class of drugs, thereby eliminating possibly differences in response, and difficulties in analysis arising from the use of a wide variety of medications with an extreme range of possible effects. The sixteen questions will be preceded by two multiple choice questions. The first of these questions will assign to each participant to the appropriate age category, while the second will show the participant's gender.

Following this, the survey questions will endeavor to understand the nature of any prescription drug use on the part of the participant. The survey will include questions on frequency of use, circumstance of use, and emotional and other reactions both to use, and cessation of use. These questions will require only a "yes" or "no" answer.


The survey reveals that a significant percentage of college students have, in fact, taken prescription sleeping pills at one time or another; the incidence of use having been greater among female students, and particularly among female students in the C, D, and E. Age Groups. Male students, too, showed an increase in sleeping pill takers as they aged. Frequent user of sleeping pills who stopped taking their medications showed a far higher level of symptoms of cessation of use than did those who rarely took such medications. Effects of cessation after frequent use consisted of various physical and emotional and psychological symptoms. Frequent usage was deduced from participants' responding in the affirmative to a question that asked if they had frequently used several different physicians to obtain the prescriptions. As well, frequency of use could be deduced from an affirmative answer to a question regarding whether the participant had continued to take the medication even though it was no longer medically necessary. Increased problems with the sleeping pill usage was also show in those participants' who answered in the affirmative to questions that asked whether they had taken pills along with alcohol, or in combination with other pills. Frequent users were also shown to require larger and more frequent dosages of the same medication. However, there did not appear to exist a direct correlation between frequency of use and any recourse to use the medication to "treat" other conditions such as anxiety, or feelings of being upset, or lonely. Participants who reported having these feelings were no more likely to take sleeping pills, or to take them excessively, than were those who did not report those feelings.


The results of this study show that, at this university, and among this population, there is no evident abuse of prescription sleeping pills. The various reasons given for abuse of prescription drugs, as cited in the literature, do not support any such conclusion in the case of this research. External evidence supports the idea that prescription drug abuse is primarily associated with older populations - a fact born out even in this study. However, the reasons for this abuse derive, most frequently, from conditions that do not normally predominate within the college environment. Adults in the workplace are typically placed in highly-individualized situations, situations that can cause them to develop anxiety disorders because of extreme pressures that are, in large measure, significantly different and much more highly personalized, than those psychological pressures found on a college campus. Additionally, the college student can usually avail himself or herself of a fairly sizeable support network consisting of close friends and school counselors, and so does not suffer the extreme isolation to which an adult may be subject. College or university is primarily a group world, where students face problems as a group. Drug abuse, such as it exists - and it does exist - is much more strongly associated with the generalities of college life as they are experience by the group as a whole, than…[continue]

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