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Drug Abuse: Not Just One Night of “Harmless” Fun

Unlike our generation’s alleged addiction to smartphones, drug addiction is hardly a new problem. Specifically, among college students, drug culture has been prevalent basically since dinosaurs roamed the earth. But the problem is getting worse and the consequences are real.

It’s a common phenomenon for college students to feel invincible, but unfortunately these feelings don’t match reality. Even one night of seemingly harmless fun can be enough to cause serious problems in later life, causing long-term brain damage or severe respiratory depression. Drug users in college are not just “sowing their wild oats;” they are beginning a path down a dangerous road.

Cocaine is arguably the most commonly used drug on college campuses. Unfortunately, students have become desensitized to the drug’s damaging effects, possibly because of its prevalent use among celebrities, on television shows and in movies. But regardless of the frequency or quantity with which cocaine is used, it increases one’s risk of heart attack, stroke, seizure, or respiratory failure. All of these may result in sudden death, even after just one hit.

The short-lived, artificial “high” that users experience is almost immediately followed by feelings of depression, paranoia, anxiety, and a craving for the drug that can become so strong that users will do almost anything to get it. This begins an endless cycle as the user needs more and more of the drug to feel “normal” again, which causes the depression that results from “coming down” from the drug to be even more severe.

Cocaine and heroin were the drugs of choice for substance abusers in our parent’s generation, and while these still pose severe problems, new monsters have taken hold of our generation: prescription drugs. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, unintentional deaths resulting from opioid pain relievers have more than quadrupled since 1999 and have outnumbered those involving cocaine and heroine since 2002.

Prescription drugs come in the form of painkillers, depressants, and stimulants. All are highly addictive and have extremely severe withdrawal symptoms. Prescription drug abuse can have potentially fatal consequences, especially when combined with alcohol.

The rise in “study drug” abuse – when students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD take prescription ADHD medication to help them study – is also cause for concern. While many students justify their decision to take drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse by saying they are doing it for the “right reasons,” there are still several risks, especially for routine users. Short-term side effects include: sleeplessness, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased sex drive, headaches, and depressed feelings. Long-term use often results in extreme physical and/or psychological dependence, in which users feel they cannot function normally without the drug.

Obtaining these drugs from peers with prescriptions also feels a lot less illegal than purchasing them from a drug dealer, but in reality it is no less illegal. In Pennsylvania, penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

Once you evaluate the trade-off between a night of “harmless” fun and a possible lifetime of side effects ranging from depression to sudden death, saying no to drugs seems like a very obvious choice.






My name is Elizabeth Worthington and I am a sophomore at Bucknell University! I am a Psychology major and an English minor. I'm from the suburbs outside Philadelphia, PA. 
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