College campuses carve out space and time for young people to learn new things and prepare for success in careers and citizenship. Vicodin abuse, however, is one activity that can sidetrack students’ ambitions and bring further threats to their health and well-being. According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.7 million college-aged people (ages 17 to 25) in the US had used a prescription drug, like Vicodin, for non-medical purposes in the past month.
Drug Class 101
Many different factors may lead college students to use Vicodin. The spirit of exploration and discovery common on college campuses may inspire more curiosity in the party scene than the classroom for many students. Add to this curiosity an unprecedented freedom from family surveillance, possibly a large amount of free time, and ready invitations to every kind of party, students simply have more opportunity and motivation to try drugs like Vicodin than they may have before.
The Dangers of Vicodin
Although Vicodin has been safely used by many patients to relieve severe pain under a doctor’s supervision and direction, the drug does carry some risks. Vicodin contains two active ingredients: hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a derivative of opium like morphine or codeine. Acetaminophen is the same active ingredient in Tylenol.
One severe danger of Vicodin is the combined use of hydrocodone with other substances of abuse. Hydrocodone is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down the body’s vital functions such as breathing and the beating of the heart. Usually hydrocodone by itself, even if taken in very large quantities, will not cause the heart and breathing to stop completely. But the addition of other CNS depressants, such as alcohol or a prescription sedative, can stop the heart altogether.
Young people may be at particular risk for this threat from drug combination. According to a 2012 survey published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 70% of teens who abuse prescription opioids, such as Vicodin, use other substances at the same time.
The acetaminophen in Vicodin can be deadly as well. Although it is safe enough to be sold without a prescription, large doses of acetaminophen can poison the liver. Vicodin abusers are in danger of reaching this toxic point by taking large doses or taking other drugs at the same time which also contain acetaminophen.
Although the college environment brings opportunities to abuse Vicodin, colleges themselves often offer programs to help students with their drug problems. Young abusers who have not already established strong dependencies may benefit from diversion programs available from some college and university health departments. Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), for example, helps guide novice drug offenders to make more considered decisions about their drug use.
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If you or a college student you know has a problem with Vicodin, call our 24 hour helpline to learn more about intervention and treatment options available. The call is toll free.