A dependency to prescription drugs is creating a false feeling of normality among college students and other addicts.
Keene State College Associate Professor in Health Sciences, Margaret Smith said the most commonly used drugs are opiates, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone, Adderall and stimulant related drugs, and anti-anxiety related drugs.
Smith said, the biological reasons that contribute to drug abuse causes a brain-reward system; this means that once people start to take drugs they need to continue to take those drugs to feel normal.
Once the abuser begins to take drugs to feel normal it is defined as a dependency, soon afterwards, if the abuse continues, it is considered addiction.
As for the reason why people become addicted Smith said, “So, we call it a bio-psychosocial disease . . . The biological, the brain chemistry; the psychological, stuff happening in my life; and then the social, what’s happening in the environment that may contribute.”
Prescription drug abuse is an ongoing battle; the United States accounts for five percent of the world’s population, but is consuming around 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
A drug that is familiar among college campuses for studying is now being used to help people with the binge-eating disorder. Vyvanse, which is similar to Adderall, is another form of medication for ADHD and has recently been approved by the FDA for treating binge-eating.
“There’s some mental illness behind the binge-eating . . . I think that with medication-assisted treatment it could work . . . so the person doesn’t become addicted and have . . . another onset of issues,” Monadnock Voices for Prevention Coordinator, Polly Morris said. Vyvanse is supposed to help to stop the disorder, so this is just another example of taking a pill to feel normal again.
However, medication-assisted treatment is a much safer option that would combine the usage of medicine with counseling and behavioral therapies to keep the patient on track and safe.
When asked about which group most commonly abuses prescription drugs, Smith said, “I can’t tell you the exact group at this point, but I can tell you who is growing, and that’s the eighteen to twenty-six year old group . . .”
College students and young adults are at the ages where they are still experimenting and figuring themselves out, trying to fit in is also a factor for the increase.
Morris said, “So, I think it’s predisposition, I think it’s your family and your environment, I think it’s peer pressure and I think it’s societal pressure.”
The college population is steadily increasing in prescription drug abuse, because they are constantly battling pressure from society and peers.
In addition, there are not nearly enough treatment centers, or beds for addicts to get the help they need. “. . . For example, in New Hampshire, I think there’s only one place for teenagers to go and New Hampshire used to have tons of treatment centers, but what happened was insurance dried up and wouldn’t pay for addiction treatment,” Smith said.
Since teens are now contributing more to the population with dependency issues, Morris said, there has to be more money put into intervention and recovery centers.
In addition, there needs to be more communication and collaboration between these agencies that deal with mental health and substance abuse.
When speaking on behalf of the shortage of detox beds and programs, Keene State College Associate Professor in Health Sciences, John Finneran related it to playing musical chairs, so those who actually have access to treatment is a toss-up.
“Have you ever played musical chairs, and so, who has access to treatment? . . . If people don’t have health insurance, where do they go?” Finneran said.
Creating a dependency to prescription drugs is a serious problem that needs to be accounted for.
Morris said, “We’re still in the denial phases for society, we just don’t want to admit there’s a problem; we don’t want to talk about it.”