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College Students and Opioid Misuse

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The United States opioid crisis affects people of all ages and backgrounds, including college students. Adults between 18 and 25 have the highest rates of substance use among all age groups. With so many young adults dealing with substance use disorders, college becomes a critical focus area for the opioid epidemic. Learn more about college opioid misuse and how to recognize it.

Prevalence of Opioid Use on College Campuses

College has a unique position in the opioid crisis. Opioid use disorder has a disproportionate impact on people with little to no college education. However, most college students belong to the most vulnerable age groups in the opiate epidemic. Between 7 and 12 percent of students on a campus can have opioid use disorder. We believe that any occurrence of this condition requires care and attention. By helping students who misuse opioids, loved ones and the recovery community can give them a fulfilling start to adulthood.

What Types of Opioids Do Students Misuse?

When a college student misuses opioids, they often begin with prescription medications, with some cases progressing to non-prescription drugs such as heroin. Students with opioid use disorder may misuse opiates such as:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxymorphone
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

If a case of opioid use disorder involves non-prescription drugs, the student is at risk of using stronger opioids without realizing they are stronger. Many instances have been reported of the opioid fentanyl being added to heroin, increasing its overdose-related dangers.

Why Do College Students Misuse Opioids?

Like any age group, young adults have diverse reasons for using opioids. Some develop opioid use disorder when they don’t take a painkiller as prescribed. Others don’t understand the addictive properties of opioids and try them as a recreational drug. According to academic research, students with these characteristics have a higher risk of opiate misuse:

  • White/Caucasian
  • Residents of off-campus housing or Greek life houses
  • Low grade-point average
  • Attendance at a competitive college

However, students with any background can be at risk of opioid use disorder. Faculty, staff, peers and loved ones can help college students by looking out for the signs of this condition.

Signs of Opioid Use Disorder in College Students

Students who have opiate use disorder experience similar symptoms to people in other age groups with the condition. The signs may show up differently, though, because instead of going to work, college students go to classes and participate in school activities seeing different people on a non-traditional schedule so it may take longer to identify changes in behavior. However, symptoms and behavior changes that college students may exhibit include:

  • Losing interest in favorite activities
  • Unexplained financial issues
  • Less frequent class attendance
  • Lower grades
  • Mood symptoms such as depression
  • Changes in social circles
  • Weight gain or loss

A student with opioid use disorder could have additional symptoms not listed in this guide because everyone has a different experience with addiction.

Get Help From MedMark Treatment Centers

If you or someone you know has opioid use disorder, we can help. MedMark Treatment Centers has clinics across the country ready to assist people with opiate addiction. Get more information or schedule an appointment using our online contact form or by calling 866-840-6658.

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