College Students Must Mind Their Prescription Meds

Miss America 2020 reminds colleges to warn their students to keep their prescription medication in a locked, secure location.

College Students Must Mind Their Prescription Meds

Image via Adobe, by Eric Hood

Over the next few months, college students will be preparing for finals. As a Doctor of Pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University, I’ll be studying myself. Something that might not be on the minds of campus safety leaders but should be is how to keep medications and prescriptions safe and secure on campus.

According to a 2018 College Prescription Drug Study of the nearly 20,000 college students nationwide from The Ohio State University (OSU), only 8% of respondents said they kept their prescription drugs in a locked space. The majority kept them in an unlocked medicine cabinet or drawer, making them easy to steal.

To prevent medication misuse and abuse, and addiction and overdose deaths, we need more education and awareness on campus around medication safety, ranging from over-the-counter medications to prescription drugs. I am committed to changing that narrative with my Mind Your Meds program, focused on drug safety and abuse prevention from pediatrics to geriatrics, and everyone in between, including college students.

Here are three things campus safety leaders need to know about prescription medication misuse, along with strategies to keep medications secure and young adults safe all school year long.

1. Stimulants, like Adderall, are among the most commonly abused prescription medications by college students. According to the OSU study, 15.9% of student respondents reported misusing them.

Once a student with a valid stimulant prescription enters college, the prescription transfers from their parents to the student. For the first time, the student is in complete control of how they use and store this medication. It’s not surprising then that 28% of students surveyed said stimulants were easy to obtain, and 79% said they obtain stimulants from their friends.

As an undergrad, stimulant abuse was what I witnessed the most. It’s important for campus leaders to provide resources for students on how they can be more responsible stewards of their medications and help them protect themselves and their friends.

Many campuses have started providing tools, like locking pill bottles. Safe Rx makes one that allows the student to lock their medication in the tamper-proof bottle with a 4-digit code of their choice.

2. There are serious consequences – like addiction, overdose, depression, memory loss and more – to sharing prescription medications with friends.

According to the American Addiction Centers, Adderall abuse can lead to side effects like hypertension, stroke and heart attack. Students misusing sedatives have reported memory loss and those taking pain medications not prescribed to them noted they felt depressed. And with opioids, of course, there’s a risk of possible physical dependency and the potential addiction that follows.

From my experience, college students downplay these risks or simply don’t understand them. So, we should be direct with college-aged young people about the potential consequences.

If a prescription wasn’t prescribed to you, it’s not meant for you, and it can be harmful if you take it. And make sure to prevent your properly prescribed medication from getting into the wrong hands by locking it up.

3. Mental health challenges and stress can drive prescription drug misuse, so stay connected.

According to the OSU study, the top reasons for misusing prescription drugs included needing to sleep, wanting to improve grades, and relieving anxiety. The college culture can become overwhelming, with school, work and life responsibilities converging. Students can seek out on-campus resources for help and support, and we should encourage balance and wellness.

Related Article: 8 Ways to Respond to Student ADHD Drug Abuse

The need to achieve is not worth leaving college with the legal woes, self-harm issues or addiction problems that can stem from using prescription medicines not prescribed to you.

Lock Up Your Prescription Medication

The college years are an incredible time of skills-development, newly discovered independence, personal growth, and life-shaping experiences. It’s also a time when students need guidance to stay healthy and safe. Prescription medications are intended only for those to whom they were prescribed, and all prescriptions should be stored securely on college campuses to prevent pilfering.

Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020, is a Doctor of Pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University.  She speaks at conferences nationwide about the opioid epidemic and safe medication storage as part of her Mind Your Meds™ program and is an advisor for Safe Rx. Camille’s newest endeavor, Her Royal Scientist™, focuses on female-centered STEM education for students of all genders nationwide.

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One response to “College Students Must Mind Their Prescription Meds”

  1. randy says:

    No where in this article does it state that it is often a violation of federal or state law to share/sell controlled substances.

    It should accompany the “serious consequences” with the actions of criminal violations of law. Students also need to be made fully aware of possible felony level crimes that are associated there sharing with friends, which can result in jail and or prison terms, loss of scholarships, possible future employment etc. If they “downplay these risks or simply don’t understand them” then reiterate to them why its labeled as a controlled substance, that when they share a small pill intentionally or not that causes someone to become seriously ill or die the they can absolutely be held accountable in a court of law. This is not a scare tactic it is real life, with real world responsibilities and accountabilities not a coddled school campus code of conduct.

    Its labeled a controlled substance for a reason. Prepare the student for the road not the road for the student

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