By: Larissa Morgan
3 AM. The first big exam of her junior year is in five hours. Why did she wait until the last minute to start preparing for six weeks of dense material? Not to mention, the exam is worth a considerable portion of her overall grade. She texts her friend: I’m going to fail this exam. Goodbye, grad school. She waits for a reply to bring a morsel of understanding to her current state of hopelessness.
The phone dings. Why worry yourself to death? It’s only taking away from your chance to study now. Come to my room. My roommate has stuff that’ll help you focus.
3:39 AM. She scratches her eyebrows and stares blankly at the flashcard. What did that word mean again? She shuffles through her notes looking for the answer. Nothing. She opens her drawer and sees the pills. Her friend’s voice infiltrates her thoughts: They’re like magic. Trust me. One time won’t hurt.
The pill goes down with a swig of water. She looks at the pile of flashcards. “Let’s do this.”
Although most Villanova students do not abuse prescription medications, anyone can relate to the feeling of immense pressure during periods of high stress, which can often be the trigger for initiating prescription drug abuse. In moments similar to the scenario described above, the temptation to take a medication can become a plausible reality, especially if one perceives that others are also using prescription drugs to cope with their circumstances. The perceived normalization of prescription drug use is consequential, as it could lead to a more prevalent drug culture on campus.
The most striking aspect of prescription drug abuse and misuse at Villanova is the distinction between perception and reality, and its potential implications for students’ decisions. Most Villanova students do not abuse prescription medications. Specifically, 93% of Villanova students report that they have never abused a prescription stimulant, and 97% report having never abused a prescription painkiller. However, Villanova students believe that more than 40% of their peers have abused a prescription medication. While I am incredibly encouraged to know that prescription drug dependency is not a pervasive issue on Villanova’s campus, most of my peers with whom I’ve spoken suggested that it wouldn’t be difficult to acquire someone else’s prescription medication, particularly Adderall, should they so choose. After speaking with some peers to gain individual perspectives on this issue, most of them expressed that they believe using Adderall before exams is a common phenomenon at a competitive, academic school like Villanova. Their thoughts were quite on par with the statistics that Villanova’s prescription drug culture is more common than in reality.
The biggest lesson we can take away from Villanova’s prescription drug climate is that we must pay attention to the reality of the issue because it could be different from what we think is happening. This can potentially change a student’s behavior surrounding prescription drug use. While Villanova students are motivated and driven for future success, most do not cope with the pressures that come with high achievement through prescription drugs. This implies that prescription drug abuse is not as common of a cultural phenomenon as students perceive. In order to mitigate the vast distinction between the reality of prescription drug use at Villanova and students’ perceptions, we should strive for more candid discussions surrounding this health issue. The Office of Health Promotion and the University Counseling Center have comprehensive education, prevention, and intervention programs, but awareness and support must also be cultivated among the student body. POWER, Peers Offering Wellness Education & Resources, is an organization of peer educators who are focused on promoting health awareness on campus. As a member, I believe POWER has the capacity to ignite these discussions throughout campus through forums, programs, panels, and other engaging events. Through peer-to-peer outreach, we can paint a realistic picture of prescription drug abuse at Villanova, while supporting those who are struggling with this issue to seek help through our incredible community.
Larissa Morgan is a senior at Villanova University with a double major in Psychology and Political Science. At Villanova, Larissa serves as Social Media Publicity Co-Director of POWER. She is passionate about encouraging her peers to make healthy choices and fostering an environment of support and respect. In addition to her involvement in POWER, Larissa also serves as President of BRIDGE Society and works as a peer tutor at the Villanova Writing Center. Larissa aspires to attend law school to pursue a career in mental health law and policy in order to advocate for the destigmatization of mental illness in society.