Christina’s Case: NYU needs strategy to prevent prescription drug abuse

Christina Coleburn, Deputy Opinion Editor

Final exams are fast approaching for college students across the nation. For NYU students, the dreaded week — complete with arduous term papers and strenuous tests that can account for over half of the overall semester grade — is slated to begin on May 13. The extreme pressure can provoke an equally extreme response from some students, who may resort to self-medication with prescription drugs. Our university should take an active role in dispelling the false notion that the misuse and abuse of prescription medication is not dangerous and rarely reap serious consequences.

The 2009 report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that college students were twice as likely to have used Adderall non-medically than those aged 18 to 22 who were not full-time students. According to a University of Kentucky study, 34 percent of participants reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants, most users claiming to use the drugs “primarily in periods of high academic stress.” Other research suggests that the most common reason for stimulant use was to focus and concentrate during studying, while a recent survey discovered 81 percent of students believed that illegal use of ADHD stimulants was either “not dangerous at all” or “slightly dangerous.” This statistic is indicative of college students’ exposure to misinformation about nonmedical prescription stimulant use.

The NYU website states that the university intends to reach its 2017 target of reducing the number of students who take non-prescribed prescription drugs from 13 to 11.7 percent. Despite this relative success, more must be done to effectively combat the problem. Although an NYU panel featuring former President Bill Clinton and former police commissioner Raymond Kelly brought attention to the issue, students still need bold reminders about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. It has been recommended that NYU develop a “university-wide strategy” to help prevent the growing epidemic. This strategy would involve focusing on reducing the amount of inappropriate access to medications and developing educational campaigns about safe use and disposal. Although these initiatives will not completely eradicate the problem, they would further demonstrate NYU’s commitment to student safety and serve as a welcome addition to our Health and Wellness centers.

The hazards of misusing and abusing prescription drugs should be most aggressively communicated in the weeks preceding midterms and final exams. For many students, the stress surrounding these tests is overwhelming, and the temptation to use an illicit study aid can seem impossible to resist. It is imperative that students understand that the consequences of these seemingly harmless boosts can extend beyond testing day and prove far worse than performing poorly on an exam.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 21 print edition. Christina Coleburn is a deputy opinion editor. Christina’s Case is published every Monday. Email her at [email protected].