October 30, 2017
1 min read

Opioid abuse in college students requires increased efforts

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A presentation at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry annual meeting highlighted the issue of nonmedical opioid use among college students and the need for successful prevention and treatment strategies for the patient population.

“The use of opiates by college students has risen dramatically over the past 2 decades, resulting in increased accidental overdose among other things; thus making the quest for identifying strategies to address this public health crisis essential,” Patrice Malone, MD, of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, wrote.

To assess prevalence, risk factors and interventions for college students with opiate use disorders, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature review of research on the rise of opiate use among college students, treatment challenges and potential interventions.

From 1993 to 2005, use of prescription opioids increased by 343% among college students.

One in four universities had an annual prescription opioid use prevalence of 10% or higher.

Previous research has shown college students who use prescription opioids nonmedically are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors and have increased risk for unintentional overdose.

Nonmedical use of prescription opioids was higher among college students who were white, residents of fraternity/sorority houses and off-campus houses, had lower grade-point averages and attended more competitive colleges.

These risk factors led to an increase in substance-free housing on college campuses; however, there is currently no research supporting efficacy of this housing.

Psychopharmacological treatment is challenging among college students due to high dropout and relapse rates, according to Malone.

“Nonmedical use of prescription opiates is second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug use among college students in the United States and is associated with lower school performance and increased risky behavior,” Malone wrote. “Therefore, it is essential to continue developing prevention and treatment strategies aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and possible escalation to more dangerous forms of opiates (ie, heroin), which increases morbidity and mortality.” – by Amanda Oldt


Malone P. Dealing with the opioid epidemic in college students. Presented at: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry annual meeting; Oct. 23-28, 2017; Washington, D.C.

Disclosure: Malone reports no relevant financial disclosures.