National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2018


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19:1 (Spring/Summer 2018), pp


© Copyright 2018 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under fifty years of age, having surpassed deaths from guns, HIV, and even car crashes. Clearly driving this trend is prescription drug misuse, especially of opioids. Of the over 62,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 alone, a full third resulted from the misuse of prescription opioids such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, and Morphine (Katz; NIDA; see also DHS). Evidence indicates that college students are among those losing their lives each year to prescription drug misuse (Spencer), but many facets of prescription drug misuse, including types, prevalence, and especially explanations, are understudied among college students and especially among honors students. We aim to help fill this void with the current investigation of prescription drug misuse among honors students in the context of the strains of college life. We turn first to a review of what is known about prescription drug use among college students and the few attempts to explain it using extant theories of crime.

While we believe that our research is solid and our implications worth employing in honors programs, the limitations of our work demand additional study on this topic. In order to discover the particular strains of college life that are important in producing drinking and illicit drug use as well as prescription drug misuse among honors students, we urge replication of this study at larger public universities with sizeable honors programs and colleges. Larger sample sizes, as well as fewer potential confounds from data collection around Mardi Gras time, would provide an opportunity to more thoroughly operationalize academic and relationship strains and to add new, potentially important ones such as financial or mental health strains. Continuing this line of investigation will help uncover the specific reasons for drinking and drug use and provide theory-based approaches that encourage responsible use of these substances as well as prosocial coping skills for honors students dealing with the inevitable strains of college life.