Painkiller use on college campuses has been a rising concern over the past few years. But why are students such a susceptible group to opioid abuse?

Opioid addictions can develop in students for a variety of reasons. The individual somehow gains access to a painkiller such as Vicodin, Percocet, or Oxycontin and develops a tolerance to and craving for the drug.

So the question we have to answer here is where the desire to use painkillers comes from in the first place — for example, was this drug something the student was prescribed for an injury or did they seek it out for recreational use?

The case is different for every student who forms a dependence on opioids, but it’s important to recognize patterns and signs to help decrease the number of college students suffering from addiction.


Why Students Use Opioids

There are many risks that can lead to opioid addiction in college students. Just a few factors that can lead these young adults to begin using painkillers include:

  • Curiosity to experiment
  • Self-treating pain
  • Stress & anxiety about grades
  • Greek life or living in a fraternity/sorority house
  • Depression or isolation
  • Peer pressure or wanting to participate

But of course, the cause is not always black and white. While some students steal prescriptions, buy from friends, or get pills at parties, many students form a dependence on opioids after being prescribed one of them. Athletic injuries, car accidents, toothaches, and many other medical issues call for the use of opioids for treatment. Some may overuse their prescription to chase the feeling of relief, while others may sell to other students. The way it all starts is never cut-and-dry; but if you know the signs and effects of addiction, it will be easier to help find a solution for yourself or a loved one.


Effects of Opioid Abuse in Students

Typically, college students who use opioids or have formed an addiction are more likely to:

  • Have a lower GPA than before use
  • Engage in impulsive activities
  • Prioritize taking and getting opioids over schoolwork
  • Gain or lose a substantial amount of weight
  • Sleep for long periods
  • Slur speech or walk uneasily
  • Act secretively and cut class
  • Lack interest in on-campus activities
  • Find new social circles

If you see these signs in yourself or a college student you know, it’s imperative to take action before a deeper addiction and dependence develops. Individuals require different types of approaches and treatments for issues like this, so where do you start?


Overcoming Opioid Addiction

You most likely are already aware that if you know someone with signs of opioid addiction, you should encourage them to get help. However, many students tend to resist getting help for their substance abuse issues because they don’t want to be labeled an “addict.” Still, it’s possible to get through to them. In fact, many college students actually tend to respond better to mentors such as teachers and counselors instead of people they’re more familiar with, like parents or childhood friends.

Opioids can dangerously affect one’s mental and physical health, especially when abused at such a young age. So if a college student is not ready for or accepting rehabilitation treatment, consider some additional options:

  • Educational reading materials about opioid addiction and its effects
  • Sober living dorms or counseling programs at the university they attend
  • A 12-step program
  • Taking a break from classes

Finding the next “right” step to take can be difficult, so we’re here to help. If you or someone you know is a college student suffering from an addiction to opioids, to learn more or call us at267.719.8528 to speak with a skilled professional and discover next steps to sobriety.