Painkillers are not only prescription opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), but can include over the counter painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and Tylenol. When taken as prescribed and how they’re meant to be used, painkillers can be helpful for alleviating the short-term pain of injuries and illnesses. However, when taken more frequently or at higher doses, painkillers, especially prescription opioids, become dangerous.

College student use of prescription painkillers has increased tremendously and is a common problem on campuses. For some students, they’re a way to alleviate stress.  For others, they are after the numb feeling painkillers can provide. For other students, though, the repeated use of prescription painkillers is not intentional.

The rise of prescription opioids and overdoses is largely due to the over prescription of painkillers. Student athletes are especially at risk of painkiller abuse. Prescriptions for sport-related injuries are common but sometimes student athletes are given prescriptions that are longer than necessary, leading to prolonged use and sometimes addiction. Opioids are also often prescribed after minor surgeries, such as having wisdom teeth removed.

Why are painkillers dangerous? Aside from being addictive, painkillers are often mixed with other substances, such as alcohol. The combination of alcohol and painkillers can slow breathing and cause death. Long-term use of painkillers can also impair cognition and memory. Even long-term use of over the counter painkillers can cause liver and kidney failure if used too often.

If you find yourself with a prescription for painkillers, only take them if necessary. You may be prescribed more than you need and if you are, dispose of them safely and do not use them recreationally – it’s not worth the risk to your health. If you or someone you care about are struggling with painkiller use, please reach out to the Counseling Center or call the 24-hour Crisis Line at (206) 461-3222.

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