Opioid Addiction in College Students

College campuses are a great place for young adults to experience their first taste of freedom. With this newfound freedom, college students start to make their own decisions for the first time in their lives. As a result, college students can be more susceptible to things like substance abuse when compared to other demographics. Several contributing factors, such as ease of access, peer pressure, or even academic pressure can play important roles on the pathway to addiction. 


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For an adolescent person, the college experience can be quite unnerving. As they leave the safety and comfort of homes they’ve known all their lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. As many as one in five students turn to pain medication, alcohol, marijuana, and even heroin to cope with academic stress. But there are many contributing factors to opioid addiction. Let’s take a look at a few.


Contributing Factors to Addiction 

Substance abuse – especially opioid addiction, is frighteningly common among students, but why? While it’s difficult to pinpoint a single prevailing cause or generalize across every demographic within the student population, there are certain factors that contribute to opioid addiction. 


Generally speaking, for the first time in their lives, students are under minimal supervision on college campuses. Living in a dorm with roommates isn’t the same as living under the roof of watchful parents. Parties and other social gatherings commonly have binge drinking and drug consumption. In a new environment, it’s easy for even sticklers to give into peer pressure. There is certainly going to be a natural curiosity about the hype around drugs – what they feel like, why people enjoy them so much. And a desire to fit in is also prevalent. Nobody wants to be the odd one out – staying behind alone while others go out.


Another major factor is the academic stress. The onus on students to overperform in order to stand out in a saturated job market is staggering. Opioids might help students deal with mental or social issues that stem from their surroundings – a temporary fix to a serious problem. These pills help students calm down before important exams and interviews – or even keep them awake to pull all-nighters. 



College campuses are the breeding ground for building up long-term addiction habits. Students can easily access a variety of drugs like methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, and prescription medications. These easily-available drugs become a go-to for many students in times of crisis or boredom. 


While all these factors play a huge role in opioid addiction, the fact of the matter is that drugs feel good. Or at least, they fool people into thinking so. Drugs cause a sensation of euphoria in users – a combination of dopamine and adrenaline. These chemical rushes or ‘highs’ translate into pleasurable mental and physical experiences – a sort of ‘out’ from the mundane existence of everyday life. Feelings of confidence, virility, wakefulness, relaxation, and bursts of creativity are what most opioid abusers chase. For young and developing minds – this can prove to be disastrous in the long run.



Signs of Addiction 

Opioid addiction is not subtle. The symptoms of this type of drug addiction to tend to worsen over time – with physical and mental manifestations that can be recognized. College students who observe these symptoms in their classmates or loved ones should intervene immediately and seek out professional help. 


The most common symptoms of opioid addiction include sudden loss of weight, slurred speech, excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, lack of interest in daily activities, no motivation to achieve success or financial freedom, anxiety, depression, frequent absence from academic activities, mood swings, etc. 


How to Prevent Opioid Addiction? 

Opioid addiction can be  prevented with a few prudent measures. Managing acute pain with opioids is sometimes necessary – but it’s important not to get dependent on the pills. First off, students should always opt for a second opinion or a consultation with a known and trusted doctor when prescribed opioid painkillers. It’s important to stay on the lowest possible dosage to avoid the chances of addiction. 


Opioid painkillers are the best option for short-term pain control. For example, it’s not uncommon for patients to receive an opioid prescription after a fracture or surgery. However, for students suffering from chronic pain, this might not be the best option. There are several alternative medications available to manage long-term pain – ones that do not involve potential dependence on opioid drugs. 


Students should keep a close eye on classmates who are on opioid prescriptions or displaying signs of erratic behavior. There is absolutely no shame in coming forward to college staff or authorities on suspected drug abuse – this can possibly end up saving lives in the long run.




The bottom line is that opioids are prescriptions and should never be used as experimental drugs. The chances of addiction are way too high – not to mention the high overdose risk. It’s easy to build up a physical tolerance to opioids and end up craving larger dosages for pain relief – or to achieve a similar high. If you are the parent of a young adult who is about to leave home for college for the first time, make sure this message is loud and clear.