Pills, Patches, and Syrups, Oh My: An Exploratory Study of College Men's and Women's Non-Medical Prescription Drug Use
Cutler, Kristin Ann
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National surveys on substance use indicate that the prevalence of non-medical prescription drug use is now greater than the prevalence of illicit drugs other than marijuana (National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2008). Of the persons misusing prescription drugs, young adults, aged 18-25 report the highest prevalence of misuse, with males and females misusing these drugs at comparable rates. This absence of a gender-gap in the misuse of prescription drugs runs counter to data on the misuse and abuse of illicit drugs (e.g., cocaine, ecstasy and heroin) and on problem alcohol use which indicate that men use and abuse these substances at a much higher rate than women. Studies on prescription drug use also indicate that being a college student is a risk factor for prescription drug abuse and misuse and show that on the most "prescription prone" college campuses 1 in 4 students are misusing prescription drugs (McCabe, Boyd, and Teter, 2006). This study provides an in-depth analysis of college men's and women's opportunities, motivations and justifications for non-medical prescription drug use. Qualitative methodological techniques were used in the form of semi-structured, open-ended interviews with individuals 18-25 years of age attending a large, public University in the Northwest. The analyses are informed by social learning, sub-cultural, and gendered theories of offending that emphasize the importance of learned motives and techniques of acquiring and appropriately using prescription drugs. Gender similarities and differences in key aspects of the "context of offending" are also identified including reasons for using prescription drugs, opportunities and methods for obtaining these drugs and diversion efforts.