College Kids See Prescription Drug Addiction And Abuse As a Real Risk, Says New Study

College Kids See Prescription Drug Addiction And Abuse As a Real Risk, Says New Study

College freshmen think the occasional recreational use of prescription drugs is a greater health risk than smoking marijuana or downing five drinks every weekend, a new study indicates, but isn't nearly as dangerous as cocaine. But, says the study's author, non-medical use of painkillers and stimulants can cause serious problems leading to emergency room treatment and even prescription drug addiction.

The study, published in the September issue of Prevention Science, is the first to investigate college students' perceptions of the risks of prescription painkillers and stimulants taken non-medically - that is, to get high and for fun.

A lot of unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence has suggested that young Americans, including college students, consider prescription drugs to be safer than all other illicit drugs except perhaps marijuana, because they are "medicine that comes from a doctor".

But the new study does not support the anecdotal evidence, at least for a majority of college freshmen. It found that two out of every three students who have an opportunity to occasionally take prescription painkillers and stimulants for fun think it carries a high risk for harm.

In the light of earlier studies of high school students, who appear more willing to experiment with prescription drugs, the new study suggests that college-age kids are maturing, and are therefore more able to perceive the truth about painkillers, stimulants, antidepressants and other illicit drugs leading to harm, dependencies and prescription drug addiction.

The study, by Amelia Arria, Ph.D., of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also found that people who are "sensation-seekers" are more likely to use prescription drugs recreationally, no matter how harmful they think the drugs might be or how high the risk of a prescription drug addiction or dependence.

"Sensation-seekers are students who like novel experiences, who want to try something new and a little dangerous, like jumping off the highest diving board or placing themselves in high-risk situations," Arria said. "They are much more likely to use painkillers non-medically even if they perceive the drugs to be quite harmful."

And, says the study, students who consider prescription drugs relatively harmless are 10 times more likely to use them than those who think they are harmful. These are the kinds of young Americans who fall prey to dependence and prescription drug addiction by the hundreds every year, or worse, lose their lives through overdoses and complications.

Think of the dozens of celebrities - from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley to Anna Nicole Smith to Heath Ledger and many, many more - who all died because of prescription drug addiction, or dependence, or abuse, or some simple, stupid combination mishap.

Some celebrities - and plenty of ordinary people too - have died from a single dose of a prescription drug, administered by a doctor, with the doctor standing right there! What makes anyone, of any age, think they have some God-like protection from these risks?

There is no easy answer to that question, but it falls in the area of drug education - knowing and understanding the facts about prescription drug side effects, prescription drug addiction, prescription drug dependency, prescription drug interactions with other drugs, and prescription drugs mixed with alcohol. And it appears some of these facts are reaching the eyes and ears of our country's college kids.

Anyone can wind up in a world of trouble - even worse than prescription drug addiction - and the risk increases with each prescription drug experiment. When some drugs are combined or mixed with alcohol, complications can quickly lead to injury, coma and death.

The bottom line: Vegetative comas and death are a whole lot worse than prescription drug addiction, because addiction can be treated successfully with medical drug detox, and rehab when needed. So if anyone you know is messing around with prescription drugs, straighten them out and give them the facts!

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