DRUG ABUSE: More College Kids Use Rx Drugs to ‘Get High’
Abusing prescription drugs is becoming "an increasingly common form of drug abuse," among high school and college students, the New York Times reports. Students are using stimulants like Ritalin, Aderol and Dexedrine; painkillers like Percocet, Percodan and Vicodin; nerve relaxers like Xanax and Valium; and antipsychotic medications like Thorazine to "better concentrate on homework or exams, to stay awake during long nights of drinking, or by mixing them with other drugs to find a yet-undiscovered high." The Times interviewed "dozens of students ... at eight universities in the Northeast this week," finding that one-fifth had taken Ritalin at least once, and "many had tried any number of other prescription drugs like Dexedrine." Students can spend as little as $2 on prescription drugs, but as high as $5 for a 20-milligram Ritalin pill during exam week.
Experts attribute the illicit use of prescription drugs to the recent "huge increase ... in the amounts of these drugs prescribed by doctors to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders." Dr. Tom Clark, an epidemiologist at the not-for-profit Health and Addictions Research Inc., in Boston, said that "the sheer availability of these drugs makes them a temptation." New York University student Josh Koenig said, "It seems like an awful lot of people I know have been diagnosed with ADD and have been prescribed either Ritalin or Aderol. So if they give away a few of their pills, it's not a big deal." James Rothenberger, a University of Minnesota Public School of Health instructor, said that at "least [students] know what they are getting," adding, rhetorically, "Would you want someone taking a street drug, or would you rather them taking Ritalin they've stolen from someone's prescription?" But prescription drug abuse can cause short-term risks including "overdoses, sexual indiscretions and impaired driving." A Trinity College senior died last week after ingesting a combination of Xanax, Valium, the migraine pill butalbital, sleeping pills and possibly alcohol and heroin. Dr. Henry Kranzler, a University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrist, said, "What these kids don't know about these drugs is killing them" (Zielbauer, 3/24).