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Prescription Drug Misuse

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Prescription drug misuse is a largely unaddressed and fast growing issue among college students.

Some students try to manage their lives by misusing prescription drugs, either with their own prescription or with medications they do not have prescriptions for. There are many serious health and legal dangers of misusing controlled substances without a prescription. It is especially important to educate college students on the many dangers of misusing prescription drugs about half of all college students will have the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug by their sophomore year. Students may turn to prescription drugs to improve academic performance, relieve stress, or even self-medicate.


Quick Links

National Data  |  Missouri Data 

National Data

  1. In 2012,  5.3%  of young adults aged 18–25 reported misuse of prescription drugs in the past month, and 13.7 percent reported misuse in the past year
  2. Almost two-thirds of college seniors will be offered prescription stimulants for nonmedical use during their college career and 31% will use them at least once
  3. Adderall® was the most frequently misused prescription drug of any type among college students in 2012, reported by 9% of college students

Missouri Data

According to the 2018 Missouri Assessment of College Health Behaviors (MACHB):

89% of Missouri college students do not use prescription drugs without a prescription
    1.  94%  do not use stimulants without a prescription
    2.  97%  do not use pain medications without a prescription
    3.  99%  do not use sleeping medications without a prescription
    4.  98%  do not use benzodiazepines without a prescription
  1. Unfortunately, of students who use medications without a prescription, the majority indicate that they either purchase them from other people (44%) or were given them (58%)
    1. When asked from whom they obtained medications the two most common answers were family (26%) and friends (69%)
  2. It is not safe to mix alcohol and prescription drugs, but unfortunately 36% of Missouri college students indicate mixing prescription drugs and alcohol in a manner other than prescribed
  3. It is not always safe to drive after consuming prescription medications, even with a prescription, as some medications can impair driving. However, 30% of Missouri college students indicate driving after using prescription drugs
  4. 71% of Missouri college students report that it is very easy or fairly easy to obtain prescription drugs without a prescription

Best Practices

Prevention of Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

  1. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs): more information at Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Training and Technical Assistance Center
  2. Doctor shopping and medical provider education laws: the Centers for Disease Control provides a good fact sheet on “doctor shopping laws”
  3. Safe storage and responsible disposal
    1. Prescriptions kept in lock boxes
    2. Prescription drug take-back events
  4. Public Awareness and Education
    1. Promote partnerships of schools, law enforcement, publish health agencies, and more to educate about the issue
    2. Create community coalitions to address the problem

Interventions to Increase Access and Support for Substance Abuse Services

  1. Adoption of Good Samaritan laws
  2. Laws that support access to rescue drugs and overdose harm reduction programs (opioid overdose education and Naloxone distribution)
  3. Counseling programs for prescription drug addiction
    1. Emphasis on behavioral treatments such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy
  4. Availability of medication assisted treatment (MAT)

SAMHSA has a good guide on Preventing Prescription Drug Misuse: Programs and Strategies and a good list of national and regional resources

The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) has a wonderful toolkit to Prevent RX Abuse

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released a great evidence-based guide on the prescription opioid epidemic and strategies for prevention

National Resources

  1. National Drug Abuse Hotline - 1 (800) 943-0566
  2. Prescription Drug Abuse Hotline: 1 (888) 939-3612
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  4. SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
  5. National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse

PIP Resources

Brochures & Posters

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There are three strategies available to address the misuse of prescription drugs on Missouri college campuses. Strategies focus on reducing access to prescription drugs and increasing education on the issues associated with prescription drug misuse. Each of the strategies is flexible to adapt to campus specific culture and funding will be in addition to existing PIP funds. The available strategies are listed below:
  1. Prescription Drug Take Back Event: Take back events will aim to reduce access to prescription drugs by removing surplus drugs from the campus community. Take back days will be accompanied by educational materials. Partners in Prevention will provide the following: funds to compensate on scene law enforcement officers, advertising materials, supplementary educational materials, event incentives, planning assistance, and evaluation data.

  2. Social Norming Media Campaign: Media campaigns will aim to increase education on the misuse of prescription drugs. Campuses will use campus data based messages on a variety of materials to make students aware of prescription drugs norms on their campus. Partners in Prevention will provide the following: media materials, promotional items, campus specific data, assistance in message development, and evaluation data.

  3. Peer Education Rx Program: Peer education programs will aim to increase education on the issues associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. Campuses will use existing peer groups to present workshops, skits, and lessons to various populations. Partners in Prevention will provide the following: access to Ohio State University’s GenerationRx program materials, training opportunities for peer educators, subpopulation identification assistance, and evaluation data.

Apply for one or more of the above listed strategies!

Click here to visit rx.missouri.edu!

Generation Rx materials are available for order through the Peer Education Rx Program. Materials were created by Ohio State University and The Cardinal Health Foundation.