Specific Reasons for Drugs Abused By University Students


SpecificReasonsfor Drugs Abused By University Students


Thesymbolic interactionism argues that people act based on the meaningthat they derive from the things they interact with in the society(Denzin, 2010). Taking this view, it is possible to understand thespecific reasons for drug abuse in the society, especially among theuniversity students. The application of this theory will inform theresearch on why students abuse drugs in the universities. Byidentifying the specific drugs, the discussion aims at exploring themeanings attached to each drug, for the students to use it. Thediscussed drugs are Adderall, Alcohol, Marijuana, Ecstasy, coldmedicine and OxyContin. Despite their knowledge of the risks involvedin drug abuse, there is extensive use of drugs within the university.These services will help the drug abusers to deal with the socialissues that lead to the behavior.

Thereare various social problems that are common within the social contextof university students. The social problems may be a culture adoptedby the youths due to some specific reasons. Their social imaginationthat leads to unacceptable behavior may not be necessarily approvedby the society. However, close interaction with the target group canlead to wide range information that will facilitate a betterunderstanding of the varied behavior among the college students. Dueto increased abuse of drugs among the varsity students, variousresearchers and welfare organizations write about most abused drugsamong the varsity learners. In addition to discussion on the drugabuse, there is an analysis of the reasons behind the drug abuse.These reasons are confined to the social context of universityyouths. These writers write with an aim of creating awareness aboutthe risks involved in drug abuse and some of stereotypes that may bemisleading among the youths.


Drugabuse among university students is widespread. The group of agebetween 18-25 years is widely affected by the drug addiction. Thedrugs that are widely used are Adder all, Alcohol, Marijuana,Ecstasy, cold medicine and OxyContin (Simon, 2009). In mostuniversities, half or more of the students have a social problem ofsubstance abuse or dependence. Substance abuse is defined as apattern of drug use, which can lead to significant social problems ordistress. On the other hand, substance dependence is defined as thecontinued use of drugs or alcohol, even when significant problemsrelated to use have developed. University learners indulge in drugabuse for the purpose of overcoming their social problems. Thesesocial problems include stress, workload, curiosity and peerpressure. However, the users end up getting other side effects thatinclude low blood pressure, headaches, dry mouths, loss of appetite,depression, irritability, rapid mood swings, insomnia, missingclasses and exams as well as poor performance due to unpreparednessdistorted perception, rapid heartbeat, loss of balance andcoordination, difficulties in thinking and solving problems amongothers.


Secondarydata is the main source of information about the topic of drugs anddrugs abuse in universities for this paper. The two methods used forthe research writing is secondary research and literature review. Thesources contain information regarding the drugs most abused by theuniversity students and the reasons as to why they abuse them. Thereasons may not be similar to those of other social groups. They arebased on that specific social group and the culture they have adoptedto enhance their solidarity. One of the challenges I faced inresearching this paper is the determination of credible information.To overcome the challenge, I used the reports and data presented bynational surveys, government authorities or credible organizations.

Findingsand Discussion

TheSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) isa body that conducts the National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH) annually. According to their report in 2013approximately67,800 people responded to the survey(SAMHSA, 2013). They estimated 24.6 million Americans above age 12that is 9.4% of the population had used an illicit drug in the pastmonth. The data showed an increase from 8.3% in 2002 (SAMHSA, 2013).Around 6.5 million Americans above age 12 that is approximately 2.5%had misused prescription drugs in the past month. Also 1.3 millionAmericans, approximately 0.5% had used hallucinogens, a category thatincludes ecstasy, in the past month (SAMHSA, 2013). Statistics alsoprove that since 2007 where there were 14.5 million marijuana usersapproximately 5.8% the number had increased to 19.8 million that isapproximately 7.5% (SAMHSA, 2013).

Oneof the drugs used by students in universities is Adderall. Taking thesymbolic interactionism perspective, the meaning that students placeon this drug is study related. That is why Adderall is commonly knownas “the study drug” within the broader social context of campuslearners. The drug is administered for treating attention deficithyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Denzin, 2010). Those who abuse it donot necessarily have the ADHD diagnosis. Reasons for the wide use ofAdderall without ADHD are a heightened sense of motivation, focus,and concentration that can help when pulling an all-night study andprovide an added boost before an exam. However, the study shows thatAdderall does not make a student smarter. It allows students to stayfocused on the elimination of distracters. Learners can acquire thedrug from ADHD patients or the doctors. There are claims that it iseasy to fake the symptoms of ADHD in front of a doctor to acquire thedrugs.

Alcoholis another drug widely abused in the campus. In fact, statistics showthat four out of five students abuse the drug occasionally duringcampus life. Around 40% admit to binge drinking once in a week(SAMHSA, 2013). Binge drinking means drinking heavily over a shortperiod to become intoxicated. Alcohol is associated with asocializing problem called Hazing. According to NationalCollaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention Center, hazing isdefined as “any activity expected of someone joining orparticipating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses orendangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate”(Sloboda, 2008). The abusers indulge in some actions without beingaware. Some are drugged by colleagues, and they end up being involvedin some risky behaviors. In fact, in some cases, the individualsconsider undertaking a risky action under the influence of the drug.

Takingthe symbolic interactionism perspective, alcohol is abused because itis assumed to be part of the campus culture and, therefore, studentsdrink to fit in their peer groups. It is a way of getting over stressas well as overcoming the exam phobia (Sloboda, 2008). Some stressingsocial problems include broken relationships, economic issues, andfamily problems. Drinking is a learned behavior that is sociallyaccepted as a way of dealing with depression and anxieties (Sloboda,2008). The alcoholic abusers report of academic consequences such asmissing classes and exams as well as poor performance due tounpreparedness.

Otherdrugs abused are the Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Socialintercationism appears with the meaning attached to these drugs assafe or easy drugs. Perhaps, this is the reason why OTC drugs are thenation’s fastest growing drug issue among youths. According to the2006 National Survey on Drug and Health, about 3.1 million peopleaged between 12 to 25 years are reported using an OTC cough and coldmedication to get high (Verster, 2012). The cough and cold medicinecontain dextromethorphan (DXM), including Triaminic DM, Coricidin,Tylenol Cold, Robitussin DM, DayQuil and NyQuil among others (Kotarba&amp Merrill 2012).&nbspDrugs that contain DXM are often availableonly at the pharmacy.

Sincethe medicine does not require a prescription, it is easily acquiredfrom the pharmacy. The drugs cause hallucinations and the usersacquire out of the body experiences (Verster, 2012). The OTC drugoverdose introduces a drug user to other drugs. According to the 2006National Survey on Drug and Health, about 81.9 percent of studentsaged 12 to 25 who have misused an OTC cough and cold medicine atleast once are also regular marijuana users, and about 44 percent arelifetime users of hallucinogens or ecstasy (Verster, 2012).

Inthe perspective of symbolic interactionism, OxyContin is a substancecommonly abused by campus students with a view and meaning of itbeing a safer drug. It is a narcotic pain reliever that wasintroduced in 1995 (Sloboda, 2008). The drug gives the feeling ofbeing high. Students prefer the drug since it is considered to besafer than the illegal drugs. The users claim that the drug does nothave hangovers. Hangovers are the side effects of a drug where theuser feels sick in the morning (Sloboda, 2008). The drug is legal andcheap hence easy to attain. The drug is addictive and can also causebrain damage and also impaired judgment.

Symbolicinteractionism seems to apply more on Marijuana as it is a drugabused with the notion of it being medicinal. The drug, having beenlegalized in some states, there is an increasing concern of its abuseand misuse by college students. It is difficult to determine themedicinal quantity that clinicians use (Sloboda, 2008). The drugimproves the mood and relieves pain for the patients of cancer, AIDS,ADHD, neurogenic pain, migraines and arthritis among others (Sloboda,2008). The drug can be smoked and for the nonsmokers, it is baked incookies, chocolate rolls, and candies, and also prepared in somebeverages.

Fromthe above observations and data on drug abuse in universities, it ispossible to recognize the meanings that the drug users attach to thedrugs depending on the change in behavior. Therefore, people canunderstand the behavioral changes that result from the use of drug,such as stealing, lying or isolation from friends, and noticeableweight loss. These individuals subscribe to such behaviors withouttheir knowledge. They may have no or less control over the same. Suchindividuals can be helped through guidance and counseling. Thecounseling process should handle the causes of the behavior. Thecause is the source of the behavior and therefore for a behavior tochange, then the cause should be addressed. Rehabilitation centersshould be provided to help the students who have become drug addicts.


Inconclusion, the symbolic interactionism perspective is effective inunderstanding why university students use certain drugs andsubstances of abuse. Drug abuse among the students in universities iswidespread because of the meanings they attach to the various drugs.Thedrugs that are widely used are Adderall, Alcohol, Marijuana, Ecstasy,cold medicine and OxyContin.Despite the knowledge of the risks involved the students still abusethe drugs. However, the culture of drug abuse is associated with somesociological problems that unless you interact with the drug usersthan it is not possible to understand. Some of the reasons for drugabuse include stress, course load, curiosity, and peer pressure.


Kotarba,J. A., &amp Merrill, B. (2012). Thepresent and future of symbolic interactionism: Proceedings of theinternational symposium, Pisa 2010.Milano: F. Angeli.

Denzin,N. (2010). SymbolicInteractionism and Cultural Studies: The Politics of Interpretation.Chichester: John Wiley &amp Sons.

Simon,A. (2009). ASociological Study Of Drug Abuse Among University Students.Johannesburg: Witwatersrand Univ.

SubstanceAbuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, Resultsfrom the 2013National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary ofNational Findings.The Web, Retrieved October 30th,2015&lthttp://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.htm&gt

Sloboda,Z. (2008). Epidemiologyof Drug Abuse.New York: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.

Verster,J. C. (2012). Drugabuse and addiction in medical illness: Causes, consequences andtreatment.New York, NY: Springer.