As the opioid epidemic continues to affect the country – and in particular states like Ohio – it is important for communities, nonprofits, businesses, and schools to partner to educate and assist those at risk for opiate abuse and addiction. Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as well as the University of Cincinnati, have created programs that publicly recognize the growing problem of drug abuse among college students and connect those in need with resources that can help.

Substance Use Facts

College students are at greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse, simply because of the changes going on at this stage of their lives. Most college students find themselves living on their own for the first time, free from parents’ regular supervision. Young people in college are going through emotional, physical, and mental changes that sometimes cause them to search for ways to fit in with the group or impress peers. Young adults’ brains are not fully developed yet, causing them to be susceptible to poor decision making and addictive behavior. Added to these factors are the stress of classes and school work, as well as financial strain and relationship issues, and it becomes a little more clear why college students often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

However, drug and alcohol abuse is dangerous, and college students and adults alike put themselves at risk every time they binge drink or abuse drugs.

  • In 2014, more than one-third of 9 million full-time college students aged 18 to 22 engaged in binge drinking in the past month (SAMHSA)
  • About 1 in 5 full-time college student used an illicit drug in the past month (SAMHSA)
  • Substance use constitutes one of the most serious public health issues for young people in the United States, creating negative health, social, and economic consequences for adolescents, their families, and communities, and for the nation as a whole (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Unintentional overdose deaths in the state have increased by nearly 33 percent from 2015 to 2016 in Ohio, as more than 4,000 residents died in 2016. Most of those deaths were because of powerful opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are now commonly found in heroin (Ohio Department of Health)

Programming to Fight Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse is a problem among college students on campuses throughout the country. With the recent rise in prescription painkiller abuse, heroin use, and now fentanyl abuse, college students are at even greater risk now for addiction and overdose.

However, new programs are being implemented in colleges and universities, including right here in Ohio, that educate students about the risks of substance abuse and provide resources to those who find themselves caught up with drug or alcohol abuse.

In Ohio, Miami University and the University of Cincinnati have implemented mandatory online courses on alcohol and drug use. The University of Cincinnati also offers classes through its Student Wellness Center that focuses on addiction and it offers online therapy assistance and support groups.

Miami University police now carry Narcan to quickly reverse opioid overdoses among students if they occur. The police department has also set up a box at their Oxford office where students can safely dispose of unwanted prescription opioids.

Universities that work with students, as well as partner with outside organizations, offer the best resources for prevention and intervention. The Coalition for a Healthy Community Oxford holds a medication take-back and awareness day each October, and the Butler County Coroner’s office recently worked with students to create an app that visualizes opioid overdose rates in the county. Both programs engage students and create awareness for the issue of opioid abuse.

Throughout the country, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides resources for colleges and universities that are designed to help students avoid substance abuse. SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” Underage Drinking Prevention National Media Campaign empowers parents and caregivers to talk with children early about the dangers of alcohol. SAMHSA’s Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment model screens for alcohol and drug use and helps students with mental and/or substance use disorders.

Providing Help and Hope to Students

Teaching young adults about the dangers of substance use, and giving them the resources they need to get help are the best ways to curb the opioid addiction epidemic among young people. Colleges and universities are now realizing the importance of prevention and education, and with new ideas being implemented in the past few years, students have a brighter future ahead of them.

To learn more about SAMHSA’s programs for teens and young adults, visit their website.