Alcohol & Other Drugs

Prescription Drugs

The Facts

Most people take medications responsibly and as prescribed. When misused, abused, or taken by someone other than the patient for whom the medication was prescribed, these drugs can produce serious adverse health effects including addiction and death.

  • Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs.
  • Commonly abused medications include:
    • 'Study drugs' or amphetamine-like drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include Adderall, Adderall XR, Ritalin, and Concerta.
    • Opioids are used for pain relief. Examples include Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin and Percocet (oxycodone), Duragesic and Fentora (fentanyl), methadone, and codeine.
    • Benzodiazepines are used as sedatives to induce sleep, prevent seizures, and relieve anxiety. Examples include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam).
  • College students misuse prescription stimulants or 'study drugs' to 'get in the zone' or pull all-nighters.
  • By a students' second year in college, about half of their classmates will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug. 

Is misusing or abusing prescription drugs affecting your life? If you or someone you know needs help, consider making an appointment with the Counseling Center or Student Health Services.

  1. National Vital Statistics System. Drug overdose death rates by state. 2008.
  2. CDC. Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers – United States, 1999-2008. MMWR 2011; 60: 1-6.
  3. Teter, C.J., McCabe, S.E., LaGrange, K., Cranford, J.A., & Boyd, C.J. (2006). Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: Prevalence, motives, and routes of administration. Pharmacotherapy, 26, 1501-1510.
  4. Arria, A.M., Caldeira, K.M., O'Grady, K.E., Vincent, K.B., Fitzelle, D.B., Johnson, E.P., & Wish, E.D. (2008). Drug exposure opportunities and use patterns among college students: Results of a longitudinal prospective cohort study. Substance Abuse, 29.