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Prescription Drugs and College Campuses

Prescription Drugs and College Campuses

A prescription drug is mainly a drug that requires that a trained professional prescribes or recommends it to the person who has a particular health issue. Prescription drugs are better understood about drugs that are bought across the counter. While the latter does not require a strictly professional prescription, the former requires that a trained and qualified professional dispenses them. The question of prescription drugs is of central importance in society. In the last two decades, there have been immense concerns that there is increased abuse, for instance, of prescription drugs in colleges and other institutions of learning. Different authorities have attached different explanations to this issue. While essentials drugs belong to a chemical domain, their use is entirely influenced by social factors.


This write-up seeks to demystify how the issue of prescription drugs is entirely a social issue. To effectively do so, three sociological approaches will be used: functional, conflict, and symbolic interaction. Against the background provided by these perspectives, societal implications will be explored from a personal, professional, and ethical viewpoint. Lastly, the essay tackles some of the challenges that could be faced while addressing the social issue presented by the abuse of prescription drugs. Although the abuse of prescription drugs can be explained using the three perspectives, there is no doubt that as a social issue, if not contained, there could be adverse health effects for the entire society and the next generation.


Why Prescription Drugs in Colleges are a Social Issue

The abuse of prescription drugs in colleges has become a predominantly serious issue across the country. This leaves no doubt that age or environment influence their abuse or misuse. The question of age comes in because most of the students in colleges are almost the same age. They range from middle teenage to young adulthood. Because they influence each other, perhaps more than their parents do, it is likely that the habits to use prescription drugs without a prescription are learned in colleges. The college environment is one of the enabling factors of prescription drug abuse.  However, to fully understand the extent of this social problem, three perspectives will be used. These include functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction.

The Functional Perspective

Functionalism is a sociological theory that is based on the fact that each element in society exists to serve a particular function. In most cases, this function is seen as serving the good of the wider society. When this approach is used in explaining the abuse of prescription drugs, it becomes apparent that students in colleges use prescription drugs to ease pain or to stimulate themselves to perform specific actions. These actions, perhaps, are rooted in the second assumption of functionalism, that for a society to survive or remain in a state of equilibrium, certain things need to be done. Of course, the contradiction here is whether the wrong use f prescription drugs could hold society in harmony. From the perspective of the students, the use of painkillers is essential in keeping them abreast with their studies and not remaining in halls of residence or at home. In addition, stimulation drugs would help college students to perform some activities better, such as sports, for the benefit of the entire school. Moreover, a more objective perspective may be founded on the fact that perhaps there are some voids in the healthcare delivery system that lead college students to abuse prescription drugs to achieve the desired equilibrium in college environments.

Under the functional perspective, society is seen as a system. This means that its functions are like that of body systems: many overarching activities happen in society for the betterment of the whole community or society. In explaining the social problem presented by the abuse of prescription drugs, it could be argued that this is an indicator that more legislation should be enacted to enforce the illegality of intake of prescription drugs. It could also, functionally mean that the college students take prescription drugs so that the college clinics may further get more work to do in treating the complications arising from such abuse.

The Conflict Perspective

As the name suggests, conflict theory entails a situation in which each individual or groups of individuals in society yearn for individual benefits from their endeavor.  In this case, people who sell prescription drugs to college students would be the drivers of social change. In such a scenario, social change or revolution is possible if the vendors continue with their businesses. From this viewpoint, college students would perhaps use these drugs because they cannot afford the cost of treatment in major hospitals. Put in other terms, the rich conflict with the poor because the latter can only use non-prescribed drugs as the fastest way to suppresses illnesses. Moreover, the cycle would be exacerbated if conflict arising from lack of adequate money for healthcare is not tamed through policy or legal ramifications.

Perhaps the assertion that college students abuse prescription drugs because of social influence is in itself a manifestation of that conflict. Firstly, the youth are seen as generally rebellious so that even when they do something because of other reasons, it would be assumed that it is because of their waywardness. The inherent conflict of ideas between the youth and the aged people may lead to different views on the way health should be approached. In the second view, the very structure of society requires that a few people control many. In this regard, several authorities in health decree that such drugs should not be used unless they are prescribed by trained and qualified personnel. Since the implementers of law and policy are few, it leads to a notion, on the part of college students, that they can do without the ‘orders’ from the few individuals who do not even understand the needs of students. By applying the conflict theory in this case, it would mean that the government occupies the wider base of the pyramid, the college administration occupies the narrower part while the individual students occupy the narrowest part of the pyramid.

The Symbolic Interaction Perspective

This perspective has several components. Firstly, it entails social interaction between a person the others. Applied to the college situation, it would refer to the nature of the interaction between the students and the administration. Most importantly, the recent trends in parenting, call for closer scrutiny of the values that parents inculcate in their children. According to this theory, the social problem of prescription drugs emanates from the fact that parents do not have adequate time with their children to tell them what they should adopt and avoid. Since there is a missing link in parenting, it is obvious that students would engage in uncouth behaviors in college.

The other aspect of the theory is the fact that human beings act towards different phenomena based on the value they attach to them. As was observed, vendors would sell these drugs to college students because they literally want to make money. Therefore, they attach an economic meaning to the social problem. To the students, the utility of the drugs is viewed against the intended results. Those students who take the drugs to stimulate their mental activity would view them as a symbol of activity. As a result, they would continually use them as long as they are in college. If there are no interventions, they are likely to continue with this trend even after college.

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Societal Implications of Prescription Drugs

Personal Implications

College students who abuse prescription drugs may not always be aware of the possible future consequences. Since their parents may not even know, in the first place, that their children are engaging in abuse of prescription drugs, it is not likely that anybody would take responsibility to help them out. As a result, in the future, the student may personally suffer from the earlier levels or doses of the drugs. In addition, the drugs may not always serve the intention that they were being taken to solve. They may either aggravate the situation or not have any positive effect at all. Students may lose a big chunk of their precious study time in trying to correct the health damages and consequences caused by these drugs. Further, in the view of Lilliard (1999), relationships are broken, money is used without planning, and above all, and one gets addicted.

Professional Implications

The fact that prescription drugs are being sold in colleges poses a professional performance challenge. Specifically, professionals will be divided between getting into business or serving their positions of work with diligence and integrity. In addition, there are also aspects of intensifying competition between private hospitals and shops that sell these drugs. The competition between pharmacies and chemists that dispense these drugs is likely to affect the quality of drugs in circulation. Due to the profit motive, there is a possibility that sub-standard products would be sold to the public. This would immensely contravene the Acts that protect the standards of medical products. From the other sense, professional integrity begins to wither. The genuine practitioners may feel cheated by those that are making money out of these drugs, and this may be very unfair.

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Ethical Implications

Perhaps the biggest ethical dilemma that is facing the sale of these drugs is the question of whether it is right to sell drugs to people who have neither been examined nor put through a laboratory test for precision. Significantly, some medical practitioners who are supposed to be working for colleges may double deal. This means that as they work for the college, they also have a business that competes with the one they are working for. It raises questions of integrity, professional dishonesty, and something entirely wrong and unethical.

Challenges to be faced in solving the Social Issue

There is a myriad of challenges to be overcome in dealing with the issue of prescription drugs in colleges. Having established that it is a social issue, it is expected that the challenges stem, likewise, from social phenomena. The first challenge would be the interconnectedness and networks that are available at the disposal of college students to share information. These include social networking sites, online communities, discussion boards, and internet-based forums. Through these platforms, college students will continuously be able to share information on the prescription drugs in the market thud influencing their further purchase. Related to this, social media may be used to spread the wrong information. This may entail the wrong pharmacological properties of drugs as well as what they treat.

The other challenge is perhaps the very college environment itself. Most colleges are set in such a way that students interact freely. It is envisaged that this kind of proximity to each other will continue to lead students to influence each other in taking these drugs. Although it may appear like an obvious thing that colleges would readily provide this interaction environment, the values that colleges stand for are essential tools in helping fight the war. Moreover, in an ideal setting, the core values that a college stands for may not even be known by the students themselves. This will continue to pose a serious challenge in the campaign against prescription drugs in colleges.


Having explored some basic information on prescription drugs and the theoretical perspectives that can be used in addressing the issue, it is clear that drug prescription addition in colleges is a social issue. It is a reality. This is because it does not only pose life challenges to the students themselves but also the professionals and ethicists. Although social media and the college environment continue to be major challenges, it is crystal clear that solving a social problem requires a social approach.

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