The opioid epidemic’s impact on college students

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Image by Tara Lonsdorf

The opioid epidemic has been ravaging the country since the 90s. The number of people misusing prescription opioids, especially among college students, is becoming a problem.

Last year alone, 10.3 million Americans reported misuse of prescription opioids, and over 47 thousand deaths were caused opioids. While no one group has been safe from the opioid epidemic, college students have been hit hard by it. During the period of 1993-2005, opioid use among college students grew by nearly 350%, and the numbers are still going up. 

One Residential Assistant (RA) said that opioids are becoming somewhat common amongst college campuses, and that Rowan is not an outlier. This RA is a former addict, who wishes to be unnamed due to personal experiences.

They said, “It’s not that difficult to find someone selling opioids on campus… I kicked my addiction but quite a few of my friends haven’t so I see the negative effects of opiates almost everyday.”

The RA went on to talk about the dangers of opioid addiction, and how it can affect those who misuse it. 

“Opiates are the most powerful drug class there is, and great power necessitates great responsibility. As an 18 year old, I didn’t quite grasp the full gravity of that statement,” said the RA. “I had to learn the lesson on my own. And I have to say, I really wish I didn’t. I almost dropped out to feed my addiction and it took me a lot of time to build myself back up.”

7-12% of college students have reported misusing prescription opioids at least once, and 2-3% reported moving to heroin from prescription opioids according to the American College Health Association. As the epidemic progresses, opioid use is becoming more and more of an issue for people of every age group, and is not limited to just college campuses.

A major factor that contributes to the popularity opioids have gained is their high prescription rate.

The CDC reported that in 2017, “16% of U.S counties, enough opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every person to have one.”

With the increase in popularity and availability prescription opioids have received, they have become the second most popular non-medical drug amongst college students, only topped by marijuana. The RA noted that the stress college puts on students is what may cause some to turn to drugs.

“It’s college. Everyone is stressed and escapism turns into the most common coping mechanism, be it alcohol, weed, working out, tv, or hard drugs, everyone has their escape,” said the RA.

To students that have never been affected by opioid addiction, it is often difficult to see the impact it has on people. Many people have never been exposed to opioid addiction, and to some, it is hard to see as a major issue. This is the case for one freshman commuter student, who also wished to remain anonymous out of fear that he “would be jumped” for sharing his opinions on opioids.

“You asking me is the first time that I even thought about [opioid abuse],” he said. “I’m sure it is used at parties recreationally, but I don’t know if it’s being abused.”

Regardless of how aware people are, the increase in the abuse of opioids along with the subsequent increase in drug overdose deaths is plaguing the nation.

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