Illicit Use of Prescription Drugs Widespread Among College Students

Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
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Almost three-quarters of college students say sharing prescription drugs is common among their acquaintances, and less than a fifth say their schools have established programs to deal with the problem.
Many college students rely on prescription drugs as study aids and they frequently obtain them without a prescription from friends or through the Internet, according to the results of a recent poll. The poll was carried out by Zogby Analytics on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance, a coalition whose mission is to improve safety and reduce crime on the Internet.
 
Of the students surveyed, almost three-quarters (71%) said that sharing of prescription drugs was somewhat or very common among their acquaintances. Almost a third (31%) said they or their friends had taken prescription medications to help them study for final exams. Of those who had done so, 32% said these medications were obtained without a doctor’s prescription. In addition, 23% of students said they or a friend had shared a legally prescribed medication with someone else.
 
Of students who had shared or knew of shared prescription medications, 50% reported sharing of pain medications, 38% reported sharing of amphetamines, and 41% reported sharing of muscle relaxants. Almost 1 in 6 (15%) of students said they or a friend had ordered prescription medications over the Internet without a prescription. Finally, just 18% of students said their schools had established programs to deal with the problem of students using prescription drugs as study aids.
 
Parents of college students expressed a similar level of awareness and concern about illicit prescription drug use by their children and their peers. Almost three-quarters (71%) of parents said they thought sharing of prescription medications among college students was somewhat or very common, and almost a third (30%) said they were concerned their children were using prescription medications obtained without consultation with a physician.
 
More than 1 in 10 (11%) of parents said they were aware that their children or their children’s friends were taking prescription medications as study aids, and more than half (53%) said they had talked with their children about the use of prescription medications as study aids. In addition, a plurality of parents (41%) said that law enforcement authorities are not taking sufficient action to stop illegal sales of prescription drugs over the Internet.
 
The 2 separate surveys of students and parents, respectively, were conducted online on April 29-30, 2013. They included 366 current or recent college students (margin of error +/- 5.2 percentage points) and 355 parents of current or recent college students (margin of error +/- 5.3 percentage points).

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