Facebook Pixel

Prescription drug use among college students

By October 1, 2010 - 9:54am
Rate This

My 20 year old niece called me last night to ask me a medical question (I'm an RN). She was afraid she was dehydrated, and was asking me how to treat it. Through the converstaion she admitted to me she had been awake for 3 days straight because of tests and papers. She said she had been taking Adderall, or a type of Adderall, for three days. She is not sure of the name of the medication, or the the dosage of the medication. Someone just gave her the medication, she does not have a prescription for it. She says she only uses it when she has a lot to do, i.e. tests and papers. At this point I don't think she has an addiction, but I am 3 hours away, and I don't see her very often. My concern is the potential for addiction. As her aunt, what can I do? Is there a good way to approach this situation to prevent an addiction, or do I sit quietly, hoping and praying that she comes out of this unharmed? She has already been arrested for public intoxication, and admitted to me smoking marijuana in high school. As far as "illegal" drugs, harder than marijuana, I don't know if she has used any, but at this point would not be surprised. After talking with her, I found out (through FaceBook) she babysat a family friend's 5 year old daughter during the middle of her 3 day drug induced, sleep deprivation escapaed. Which means, she is also driving. I need help knowing how to handle this situation. Thank you in advance for you input.

Add a Comment9 Comments

"Early Alum" means she will still be a member of the sororiety, but not an active member. In other words, she won't be participating in all the "parties." This is still no guarantte that she won't drink and be involved in drug use, but it is a step in the right direction. I think a lot of her drinking and drug use stemmed from her involvement in the sororiety. It's a baby step, but at least she took that step. Time will tell how much change has occurred. Thanks again for all the support. I really appreciate what everyone had to say:)

October 19, 2010 - 9:32am
(reply to Concernedaunt)

Thanks for updating us! I am so glad the talk with the mom went well, and it sounds like you handled it extremely well. Kudos to you!

We would love to hear an update about your niece sometime...take care!


October 19, 2010 - 12:31pm

Okay, here is an update on my niece. I talked with the mom that she babysat for the other day. I started out talking about totally different subjects. Then SHE brought the fact that my niece babysat for her. I told her I knew about it, and wondered if she noticed anything about my niece. She said she could tell she was stressed, and had a lot of studying to do. I voiced my concerns about my niece's health and the drug use. I kept it very casual, so I don't feel like I was "telling on her" (sorry, I couldn't think of a more grown up way to say it, ha ha!). So, this mom has the info, and she can make her choices from there.
The good news is, my niece called a few days later, and told me she had made the decision to go "Early Allum" with her sororiety. I think she is beginning to realize something has to give. Dare I say she is growing up? I am proud of her for making some mature choices. She still has a ways to go, but don't we all? She knows where I stand on the drug use, but she also knows I care for her beyond measure. Thanks again for allowing me to voice my concerns, and for all the wonderful imput:)

October 15, 2010 - 12:51pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Concernedaunt)

Great to hear from you Concernedaunt and I think you did everything right. Not that I can give legal advice, but if your niece has been public about her drug use then she has no legal "expectation of privacy" therefore you can discuss what you wish. That's from a legal standpoint, not an ethical one, of course! I think you did the right thing.

I'm glad she is showing some responsibility with her lifestyle (although I have no idea what Early Allum" is! Does this mean she is in a group that plans to graduate early? If so, I hope she can handle that pressure. However, since I don't know what this means, and you're happy - then it must be a good thing!

I think you are a fantastic aunt - we should all have a "Concernedaunt" in our lives who says what she thinks but knows when to back off.

Don't be a stranger - we have lots on EmpowHER that can be of interest to you too!

October 15, 2010 - 1:03pm

Thank you so much for your response, I think I already knew much of what you said, I just needed to hear it from someone else. I want to do everything I can, but ultimately, I know there is not much. As far as what she is studying, I am not really sure. She has changed her major so many times, it's hard to keep up with her classes. Until recently, she wanted to be a sportscaster, but now she wants to be a lawyer. Regardless of what her major is, I would assume at this point she is primarily working on basics. She partied her first year, so she said now she needs to get her GPA up to get into law school. As a nurse, I understand the pressures of college. I told her I remember many times looking at the calendar and scheduling when I would be able to sleep ( I worked full time too, so I know what you mean). She has it in her mind that college is harder now than it was for me...way back then...I graduated 17 years ago, but I don't think college has changed that much! She does not work full time, but does belong to a soroity, that she says she has to do to help her career later. I keep thinking if she can't handle school without the stimulants now, how is she going to handle law school? I don't think she has any scholarships, just a lot of student loans. Her parents (my sister is her mom) have recently divorced, so she has a lot of anger issues. Regarding the babysitting, I go back and forth on whether to say something or not. The information I got off of facebook, was a post she put on when she was babysitting on Wednesday night. When she called me last night, she said she had not slept for 3 days, so I am figuring from her own timeline, she was in the insomnia state of mind. I thought about asking her, but I am trying to tread lightly right now. I don't have actual proof, but I have a pretty good idea, thus my hesitation in saying anything to the mom. Plus, the mom is on facebook too, and has access to all her posts about the sleep deprivation, just not the drugs. I may just wait, and see if she is asked again to babysit, and then mention it. I will have to think more on that one. Thanks again for your response, it's nice to just have someone to bounce information around:)

October 1, 2010 - 10:14pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Concernedaunt)


You are welcome to bounce ideas and opinions here anytime!

I know you're in a difficult position. Legalities aside, she can take all the drugs she wants, as a grown woman.

One thing I would say is that perhaps she needs to be taken aside about the babysitting issue. She can do this to herself all she pleases but she has no right to endanger small children and they could get hurt or worse, under the care of someone who is on drugs and has not slept for three days. However, as you say, if the mother of the children also has access to her posts, she may know already. However, she may not be on FB much and not read everyone's pages. I'd be inclined to check further in this for the childrens sake. Too many people step away and do nothing, only to see terrible consequences later. At least talk to your niece about it.

Keep us posted and good luck to you,

October 3, 2010 - 9:32am
(reply to Susan Cody)

I just sent the mom a message (I don't have her #) telling her I need to talk with her. My husband and I talked about it, and feel the same as you, so I am going to discuss it with her. The way I see it, my niece may (probably will) be very mad at me, but I would rather live with that than something happen to someone's child. I will let you know how the conversation goes. Thanks again!:)

October 3, 2010 - 2:11pm
(reply to Concernedaunt)

I wanted to chime in on this post, as I am a mother of two small boys, and I also worked with college students for 8 years in Student Affairs, and talked with them extensively about alcohol, prescription drug abuse, marijuana, sexual health, stress...you name it.

First, I would not call the mom who your niece was babysitting. I would tell your niece that you have information (that she posted publicly) that she was babysitting at the time during which she was abusing drugs, and you expect her never to babysit again...or you will call the parents under obligation of protecting these children. Since you have already called the mom, you may simply let her know that your niece is under a lot of stress, and you have second-hand information that she may not be suitable to babysit, and that is all the information you feel comfortable providing. The mom will "get it", but it still seems wrong somehow...your niece should be the first to know that you are calling her job, and give her the chance to do it first, since you have not witnessed the behavior. I can see both sides, and am not sure what is legally correct vs. morally correct.

Your niece should be given a chance to tell the mom herself, or not babysit while under the influence of drugs. I don't think telling the mom after-the-fact is helpful, as she could press charges and I'm not sure that is the right thing to do right now, as your niece could choose to babysit another family PLUS not tell you about it.

Your niece, as well as other college students I talked to, honestly think taking someone else's prescription is not harmful. They do not think a few times will cause long-term damage, since other people their age are taking these medications legally. They don't really get it, and many of them won't have side effects..but some will. It is just impossible to know who will suffer consequences until after-the-fact, and they are willing to take the gamble. They do not see it as drug abuse (taking drugs/medication that are not prescribed to you is labeled "abuse", as is taking illegal drugs like pot).

Do you know if her university has a "zero tolerance" policy for drug abuse? This could be a huge problem, as if she is caught just ONE time with a prescription that is not hers, or a friend tells authorities, she could get kicked out of school. Telling her this may not help, if used as a scare tactic, but it might not hurt for her to hear this once. Drug abuse is a problem on university campuses; MOST students do not abuse drugs and prescriptions, but there are some who do. She is in the minority, but she may feel like "everyone" is doing it if she is spending time with friends who are abusing drugs in this manner.

College is much more difficult than my generation, and the generations before. There are more pressures placed on these kids, not only with grades, but also in social clubs, recreational sports, traveling abroad, majoring and minoring in several subjects. There are high expectations that since this generation has been "given every opportunity" that they will succeed; there is not much room for failure. When near-perfection is expected, drugs are often there to help these students stay awake for impossible hours of homework, exams and extra-curricular activities (these are not really "volunteer", as it is expected on a college resume to be a member of several organizations in order to get a good job). It's really tough for these kids!

Can you talk with her about the seriousness of her drug abuse? She can get kicked out of school. You may want to call her sorority house and talk to the "sorority mom" (or whatever they are called at her school) and send an anonymous tip that some girls are using Adderall. That's where I would come in, working in Student Affairs, and talk with the girls about the consequences of abusing drugs (hopefully in a way that was at their level; in their language). Your niece may need to hear the message many times: from you, from Student Affairs personnel, etc.

Please let me know if you would like more information!

October 3, 2010 - 7:03pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Concernedaunt

Thanks for your post and welcome to EmpowHER! Thanks also for looking out for your niece like this.

In terms of what you can do to stop her from doing this - there is not a whole lot you can do to force her to stop, unless she is committing crimes (you can call the police). Since she is freely admitting doing this then she probably doesn't think too much of it. She may not even believe there is a problem.

However, if she is on any kind of scholarship, she may lose it if she's caught doing what she's doing.
What kind of course is she doing that she needs to be up all night long to get her work done? I worked full-time my entire way through college and while I did have a few sleepless nights at the end of some semesters, there was not that kind of pressure. Therefore I'm not sure if she is on drugs due to pressure or just because wants to take them. I'm suspecting a bit of both.

All you can do is talk to her and try to reason with her - the ultimate decision is hers. It's not realistic to inform authorities for now- it's could drive her away (from both you and college) and you have no real proof. I'm not sure what the college would or could do (unless she's playing sports for them or on scholarship, as I mentioned already.)

As far as babysitting is concerned - this is a different issue. If you know for a fact that she did what she did, then you have a duty to inform the parents of these children. She is endangering them and as a parent, I'd want to know and I'd never let her near them again. However, you'd need to be sure this happened and Facebook is not a reliable source. Do a little checking around with more reliable sources.

At this rate, you can inform her parents if they are paying for her college/living expenses (She is an adult now and can make her own choices. However, not on someone else's dime) and offer resources to help her (like NA, AA etc and I'm sure the campus has an anonymous support group too). You will face alienating her but that's a chance any family member takes.

Use as much compassion as you can but remember there is only so much you can do.
What do you think?

Thanks again for looking out for a family member like this!


October 1, 2010 - 11:20am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.


Get Email Updates

Addictions Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!