Secondary Exposure to Opioid Abuse Affects College Students
Researchers from Penn State Lehigh Valley surveyed 118 students. More than 32 percent of them knew someone overdosed on painkillers or heroin, while one in five knew someone who was addicted to pain medications.
Nearly 15 percent of students also reported that they were worried that someone they knew might be misusing drugs. Women were more likely to reveal ties to someone who misuse or overdose on opioids.
“Since the beginning of the opioid epidemic, public debate and prevention strategies have focused on the primary victims, misusers themselves, while surprisingly little attention has been paid to the burdens felt and experienced by those who are intimately or socially tied to them,” said Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology at Penn State.
The secondary effects of exposure to opioid abuse become more intense for college students in the backdrop of rising tuition costs, student debt, and a competitive job market.
“I was surprised by how many students report close ties to people who are addicted to or have overdosed on opioids,” Erica Hughes, an undergraduate student in Health Policy Administration said.
“It makes me sad to think that so many are carrying around this worry because being a student in today’s world is already hard enough.”
Researchers called for a better response to the opioid crisis by taking into account the negative effects on the secondary victims along with the primary ones. They called for better allocating resources to help communities especially the disadvantaged.