If you abuse alcohol or are an alcoholic, you are more likely to also abuse drugs, new studies conclude. A series of studies, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), were done by researchers at the University of Michigan. Through these studies, researchers discovered a significant link between alcoholism and prescription drug abuse.
Alcohol Abuse Leads to Drug Abuse
The studies report that, compared to those who do not drink at all, individuals suffering from alcoholism are 18 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs. (1) Many of the people who were included in these studies were young adults and college students. Individuals who started drinking alcohol at a younger age were more likely to abuse prescription drugs, and those who typically drank more in a single sitting were also at higher risk for drug abuse.
Young Adults at Risk for Substance Abuse
College students today have an overabundance of prescription drugs at their disposal – most of which come from classmates who are legitimately prescribed the medications. There is so much pressure for our young people to perform that, fueled by the attitude that popping a pill can solve any problem, many college students don’t think twice about taking someone else’s prescription drugs. According to the researchers of these studies, young adults who already abuse alcohol do not consider it a big risk to switch to prescription drugs. If alcohol can make them feel good, they feel prescription drugs can give them that extra boost of energy, or concentration, or calm their anxiety. Dr. Michael Lowenstein says now is the time for action, “These studies are indicative of how this trend will continue to progress if drastic measures are not taken to help curb abuse. The fact that younger individuals are the most likely group to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs together should be a wake-up call to parents, doctors, educators, and even policymakers. As a community, we all share the responsibility to help ensure the safety of younger generations, and it is my hope that through education, legislation, proper disposal of unused medications, and more secure prescription writing protocols that we can all do our part to help stop this increase.” (1)
Dangers of Combining Drugs and Alcohol
Of course, it is not only young people who abuse alcohol and drugs. People of every age abuse both alcohol and drugs, often putting themselves at great risk. Researchers from these studies are concerned about people combining prescription drugs with alcohol, because when mixed, they can have serious or fatal side effects. It is also much more difficult for a person to recover when they are abusing more than one substance.