Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Prescription Stimulant Use by Graduate Students

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Prescription Stimulant Use by Graduate Students

Article excerpt

As institutions of higher education continue to encounter and address issues of alcohol and drug abuse on campuses, the growing trend of illegal prescription drug use is becoming another concern. Prescription drugs are a vital part of American society and are used to treat a variety of illnesses such as Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder, sleep disorders, pain, and anxiety. Prescription drugs' production and distribution has risen consistently over the past ten years (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2013; National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2005; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2010). As the production and distribution has increased, there have been similar reports of increased prescription drug abuse particularly among college students (Hall, Irwin, Bowman, Frankenberger, & Jewett, 2005; McCabe, Teter, & Boyd, 2006; Teter, McCabe, Boyd, & Guthrie, 2003; Teter, McCabe, Cranford, Boyd, & Guthrie, 2005; Teter, McCabe, LaGrange, Cranford, & Boyd, 2006). The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2005) conducted one of the first national reports and analysis of prescription drug abuse in the United States. They concluded that 15.1 million people admitted abusing prescription drugs in 2003, which was a 93% increase from 7.8 million in 1992. This increase was twice the growth rate of marijuana use, five times that of cocaine use, and sixty times that of heroin use (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2005). In 2006, 48 million people admitted abusing prescription stimulants suggesting further a rapid increase in prescription drugs (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2010). Considering those between the ages of 18 and 25 are at great risk for illicitly using prescription stimulants (Johnston et al, 2013), there is a heightened need to examine its abuse and illicit use among undergraduate and graduate students. Currently, there is limited to no evidence of graduate student illicit use of prescription stimulants; thus, this literature review will focus on a comparable population to establish a need for studying graduate students.

Illicit Use of Prescription Drugs

In 2005, 62% of full-time students enrolled in four-year institutions were between the ages of 15 and 24 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). There has been a significant increase in illicit use of prescription drugs from 1993 to 2005 among that age group. The number of students self-reporting illicit use of prescription stimulants increased 93.3%, which include medications such as methylphenidate, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2005). It currently surpasses the rate of all other forms of illicit drug use such as cocaine, ecstasy, inhalants, LSD, methamphetamine, and heroin (Johnston et al., 2013; McCabe, Teter, & Boyd, 2005). Marijuana is the only exception. This problem is even more worrisome since individuals abusing prescription drugs are more likely to become poly-substance abusers, which is defined as using multiple substances concomitantly (Herman-Stahl, Krebs, Kroutil, & Heller, 2007; McCabe, Cranford, Morales, & Young, 2006; McCabe, Knight, Teter, & Wechsler, 2005; McCabe & Teter, 2007; McCabe, West, & Wechsler, 2007). Over a span of any given month, 49.4% of full-time students reported abusing alcohol and controlled prescription drugs (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2007). Additionally, 45% of students identifying as current drinkers indicated their willingness to engage in other forms of substance use such as using prescription stimulants without a prescription (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2007). The statistics presented suggest other substance use will increase among college students if prescription drug abuse is not effectively addressed.

It has been established that students who abuse prescription stimulants are more likely to abuse other substances excessively such as alcohol and tobacco (Johnston et al. …

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