With school opening back up for the fall, parents and students need to recognize the dangers of prescription drug misuse when students are in school.
School is stressful. With frequent tests, quizzes, assignments, presentations, late nights studying, and more, most students often feel overwhelming school pressure. This in itself can encourage students to look to prescription medications to relieve their stress, help them focus, or give them more energy. Many students also experience stress, anxiety, and depression due to the taxing nature of the school and can often seek prescription drugs to self-medicate. Coupled with peer pressure and the knowledge of peers who misuse these medications, many students often find themselves with easy access to these drugs.
As a high school student myself, I have heard the language that surrounds drug use at school. All forms of drug misuse are usually not taken very seriously, even when students recognize that it can be harmful. Because of this, students need to learn about the facts early on because many statistics show increased prescription drug misuse numbers in middle schools. The sooner students understand the true harms of substance abuse, the better they can protect themselves against using drugs due to school-related stress or peer pressure.
This education is made much more critical because the vaping of nicotine and marijuana is increasing in high schools. According to the National Institute for Health, approximately 20.8% of 12th graders and 19.4% of 10th graders vaped marijuana in 2019. Vaping devices are small and easy to hide, and their cartridges are filled with flavored drugs that easily get students addicted. As students use more and more of them, the “high” that students experience becomes less and less strong, which can encourage students to turn to more dangerous opioids like Xanax or even cocaine. This is why marijuana is considered a “gateway drug” to other drugs.
However, while these statistics seem worrying, both parents and students can learn how best to stay prescription drug misuse-free through education and clear communication. Speaking out about stress or peer pressure can help students feel less inclined towards misusing medications and can help improve mental health. Talking to friends and trying to educate them can also keep them safe. And even though party culture is a part of high school, the best way to stay safe is to be self-aware and look out for your friends. This includes calling for medical attention even if you or others are afraid of the consequences of underage alcohol or drug use. Check to see if your state’s Good Samaritan Law protects you from legal consequences of drug or alcohol use too. Lastly, please do not hesitate to reach out here or on the NCAPDA’s main website for more information or help.