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College Freshmen See Rx Drug Misuse More Risky Than Alcohol, Pot
Date:9/3/2008

But surveys found cocaine viewed as most dangerous to health

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Freshman college students think the occasional use of prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes poses a greater risk to their health than smoking pot or knocking back five drinks every weekend, a new study indicates.

But cocaine is perceived as far more dangerous than any of those habits, the series of surveys revealed. And the researchers noted that students generally prone to engaging in attention-seeking behavior -- along with those who simply don't view unauthorized prescription drug use with much alarm -- are at the greatest risk for abusing prescription painkillers and stimulants.

"The important point here is that risk perception is very important in determining whether or not a person is going to use non-medicinal prescription drugs", said study author Amelia Arria, associate director of research with the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland. "And the ones who use these drugs don't perceive the high risk as often."

"However, the anecdote that's out there that everyone is using these things because they think it's safe is not the case, in general or among college kids," she added. "A lot of these students perceive a risk, and not a lot are using them. It's just that among the very small population who are taking these drugs, there is less of a likelihood that they perceive any risk."

The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and is described by the research team as the first to explore college student views of the dangers of non-medicinal prescription drug use. The findings were published in the September issue of Prevention Science.

The authors noted that as recently as in 2005, among people of all ages, the non-medicinal use of painkillers and stimulants was associated with more than 175,000 visits to the emergency room.


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