The Opioid Epidemic & College Students

By Anna Miller

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On October 26th, 2017, President Trump declared a public health emergency as a result of the opioid epidemic. Americans today tend to recognize that opioid abuse is a problem in our country. Many people know someone who has become addicted to prescription opioids, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, or Morphine, or someone who has fallen captive to fentanyl, a highly potent opioid pain reliever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “opioids were involved in 47,600 deaths in 2017, and opioid overdose deaths were six times higher in 2017 than in 1999”. Clearly, we can agree that opioid use has become extremely problematic throughout our country. However, in general, Americans have focused less on how this epidemic has been impacting college students.

Students on college campuses are particularly vulnerable to the opioid epidemic. College students are known to experiment, try new things, and take risks. Therefore, it is not a big surprise that many have decided to experiment with opioids. College campuses are full of affluent students who can pay others for prescription opioid pills. In 2017, “in 16% of U.S. counties, enough opioid prescriptions were dispensed for every person to have one” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Clearly, there are an abundance of opioids for students to get their hands on. Also, athletes are often prescribed opioids to alleviate pain from injuries. These drugs are highly addictive, and therefore, they can be extremely difficult to stop using. Once their prescriptions run out, students may turn to other opioids such as fentanyl or heroin in order to get the euphoric feeling they are looking for.

Unfortunately, opioids can have devastating consequences. Students may prioritize drugs over their goals and dreams. In addition, they might start skipping classes or even drop out of school. Sadly, it is not uncommon to overdose and die from opioid use, and unfortunately, overdose rates are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for people ages 15-24, “drug overdose death rates increased 28%” from 2015 to 2016.

If you think that you or someone you know is misusing opioids, pay attention to these signs:

  • Having trouble staying awake, or falling asleep at inappropriate times, such as during class; drowsiness
  • Losing interest in social activities or activities and clubs that were once enjoyed
  • Euphoria (feeling high), being overly energetic, talking fast
  • Dramatic and sudden mood swings
  • Poor decision making, impulsivity, and abandoning responsibilities such as homework and studying
  • Visiting multiple doctors for more prescriptions
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Lowered motivation and lowered grades
  • Needle marks on arms and legs (from injected use)

Many students do not know where they can get help. If you believe that you or someone you know may benefit from our private substance abuse services, contact us at 617-221-8507 or



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