prescription drug abuse

national attention

prescription drug mixing

prescription stimulants as study aids

drug and alcohol poisoning

how to help a friend with a prescription drug problem

a note on staying focused for semester projects, midterms and final exams

disposal of unused prescription medications

prescription drug abuse resources and links



Most ASU students do not abuse prescription drugs: 

84.1% of ASU students surveyed had not abused prescription drugs during the previous 12 months.

ASU students who abuse prescription drugs are significantly less likely to have an “A” grade point average.

When asked whether they had used prescription drugs not prescribed to them during the past 12 months:

4.8% had abused sedatives (e.g. Xanax, Valium)

7.9% had abused stimulants (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall)

9.4% had abused pain killers (e.g. Opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Codeine)

American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2011 Baltimore: American College Health Association; 2011. (n=1,748)

prescription drug abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed.

Prescription drugs are powerful and misuse can lead to many unintentional effects, including illness, addiction and perhaps even accidental death.

The most common type of prescription drugs that are abused fall into three categories:

1) Sedatives (Depressants)

2) Stimulants 

3) Painkillers


national attention

Prescription drug abuse is increasing across the United States.

While most college students choose not to abuse prescription drugs, approximately 1 in 4 people between the ages of 18 and 20 report having abused prescriptions drugs at least once in their lifetime (SAMHSA, 2008). However, nationwide, college students tend to grossly overestimate the percentage of their peers that abuse prescription drugs (ACHA, 2010).

Students who abuse stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta) report doing so for either recreational or academic purposes (Teter et al., 2006). However, regardless of their motive, students who do not abuse prescription stimulants are significantly less likely to report being depressed than those who do (Teter et al., 2010).


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Rockville: United States Department of Health and Human Services; 2008.

Teter, C.J., Falone, A.E., Cranford, J.A., Boyd, C.J., & McCabe, S.E. (2010). Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and depressed mood among college students: Frequency and routes of administration. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 38(3), 292-98.

Teter, C.J., McCabe, S.E., LaGrange, K., & Cranford, A. (2006). Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: Prevalence, motives, and routes of administration. Pharmacology, 26(10), 1501-10.


prescription drug mixing

Prescription drug interactions can vary, but when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, the hazards can be potentially dangerous. In fact, students who abuse multiple prescription drugs, or mix prescription drugs with alcohol, are significantly more likely to experience alcohol or drug related problems (McCabe et al., 2006).

Even interactions with prescription drugs and over the counter cold medicine or asthma medication can be harmful. Always ask your doctor, pharmacist or other medical professional about drug interactions, including those between alcohol and prescription medications.

McCabe, S.E., Cranford, J.A., Morales, M., & Young, A. (2006). Simultaneous and concurrent polydrug use of alcohol and prescription drugs: Prevalence, correlates, and consequences. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67(4), 529-37.


prescription stimulants as study aids

Some students believe that stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin are effective study aids, even for people without attention disorders.  However, a survey of ASU students provides evidence to the contrary.   Of those students who reported using stimulants in the past year, 33% reported an ‘A’ cumulative grade point average, compared to 52% of non-users. 

American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2010 Baltimore: American College Health Association; 2010. (n=2,018)


drug and alcohol poisoning

If you suspect that someone is experiencing drug or alcohol poisoning, or is unconscious for any reason, call 911 immediately and stay with that person until help arrives.    Never assume that the person will “sleep it off.”  Your response can make a difference between life and death.


how to help a friend with a prescription drug problem

Some people believe that because prescription drugs are legal, they are safer or less addictive.  However, misuse of prescription drugs can lead to a serious addiction.  To help a friend you must first recognize the signs associated with prescription drug abuse.


  • Common behavior changes associated with prescription drug abuse:
    • Sudden mood or personality changes
    • Avoiding or switching friends/peer groups
    • Beginning to use additional drugs
    • Losing interest in personal appearance, hobbies, interests
    • Family history of alcohol or other drug use
  • Common physical signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse: Opioid Use:
    - Sleep deprivation
    - Slowed or shallow breathing
    - Constricted pupils
    - Nausea, vomiting, constipation
    - Slow, slurred speech
    Depressant Use:
    - Respiratory depression (slowed or shallow breathing)
    - Slurred speech
    - Blurred Vision
    - Slowed reflexes
    - Loss of coordination
    Stimulant Use:
    - Dilated pupils
    - Paranoia/nervousness
    - Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss
    - Hyperactivity
    - Shaking
  • Communicate your concerns one-on-one in a private place at an appropriate time.
  • Tell your friend that you are concerned and explain why without making judgmental comments.
  • Recommend professional help and provide resources where your friend can seek support.
  • Offer support, encouragement, and hope.

Prescription drug abuse resources and links

Resources for Alcohol and other Drugs


Get involved with Alcohol and Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness


For more information about Prescription Drug Abuse, please contact wellness@asu.edu.