Attorney At Law Steven A. Garner
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Identifying possible prescription drug abuse by college students

Like other New Jersey parents, you sent your child off to college in the hopes that he or she would study hard, earn a degree and enjoy some measure of success in life. You more than likely gave your college-bound child sage advice regarding the dangers of drinking and taking illegal drugs.

What you may not have considered is that your child could become addicted to prescription drugs. This appears to be a significant problem on many college campuses throughout the country. How do you know whether this is a problem for your college student?

Would you know the signs of prescription drug abuse?

With so many different types of prescription drugs out there, it's not always easy to recognize the signs. Certain drugs cause different symptoms. The most commonly abused prescription medications include sedatives/depressants, stimulants and opioids. It may help to understand the signs associated with each type of drug.

Symptoms of abuse of sedatives and depressants

Medications such as Ambien, Xanax and Valium help people with sleep issues, anxiety disorders and panic attacks by slowing down certain functions of the central nervous system and brain. The following signs in your child could indicate abuse of one of these, or another, sedative or depressant:

  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of coordination

Taking enough of these medications at one time could cause a person to slip into a coma.

Symptoms of abuse of stimulants

In contrast, if your college student takes something like Concerta, Ritalin or Adderall, it may be in order to stay alert, increase energy and focus better. The problem is that these medications come with rapid breathing, increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure, which could be dangerous. The following signs could indicate a problem with stimulants:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Paranoia
  • Nervousness

Seizures could also occur in people who abuse stimulants.

Symptoms of abuse of Opioids

The number of people abusing opioids appears to be on the rise here in the United States, and college students are included in those numbers. Doctors often prescribe medications such as Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin for pain, but the feeling of euphoria these drugs cause leads to addiction. Some signs include the following:

  • Skin issues
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Slow gait
  • Slurred and slow speech
  • Watery and droopy eyes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Constipation, vomiting and nausea
  • Sleep deprivation

Despite always feeling sick and sluggish, the addiction does not readily allow a person to stop taking these drugs.

Your child's behavior could be the best clue

The best indicators of prescription drug abuse often come from behavior, especially since you may not see your child every day. Consider the following as signs of possible drug abuse:

  • Reckless behavior
  • Anger or aggression
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Clumsiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Borrowing money
  • Having extra money
  • Lying
  • Skipping classes
  • Poor academic performance
  • Sudden appetite changes
  • New group of friends

People do change, and college opens up new experiences, but in general, any uncharacteristic behavior could indicate a problem.

Contact with law enforcement could also indicate drug abuse

Of course, your child could end up calling you from jail after an arrest for possession of prescription drugs. You may fear that the criminal justice system will not care that your child may have an addiction. You may be greatly focused on finding a way to get your child the help he or she needs in order to overcome an addiction to prescription drugs and get his or her life back on track. You may fear that your child could get a prison sentence or other penalties that could make achieving this goal difficult.

Drug charges can adversely change the course of a college student's life. Parents of college students accused of prescription drug crimes may find it worthwhile to contact a criminal defense attorney who can advocate for their child within the legal system to try to avoid criminal penalties and get their child into a drug rehabilitation program if needed.

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