What To Do If College Students Quit Taking Their Medication


When I was in high school, I was aware of mental health issues, but I did not know of many people who actually sought treatment or were prescribed medication. The only times I had known of someone seeking care was if they had committed an extreme act of self-harm.

But that was years ago. Students now are more likely to have been diagnosed with mental health conditions before entering college. These students are given medication as an important component of their care, but according to the Arizona Daily Sun, some students stop taking their pills once they're away from the watchful eyes of their parents.

Psychiatrist Bruce Cohen told the Arizona Daily Sun that some students don't want to be seen as a problem so they don't like to ask for help. When these kids go off to college and are on their own, being busy sometimes results in them forgetting to take their meds or wanting to see what life is like without them. When students stop taking meds, they don't notice a problem right away, which makes them think they never needed them.

“A few days you don’t take it and you don’t feel terrible,” Cohen said. “So you think maybe you don’t need it.”

A study about medication found that prescriptions for adolescents rose from 14% in the 1990s to 20% in the mid-2000s. 

“We are now able to help students enough that they actually get into college, whereas 20 years ago, they wouldn’t have,” Cohen said.

Psychologist Matthew Wintersteen told the Arizona Daily Sun that students in college want to be viewed as independent and may not want to acknowledge having a mental illness. The idea of feeling like they have to take meds is challenging for them because of these reasons.

But when students are pushed into new environments and aren't taking medicine, this can result in extended periods of anxiety or depression, and students may also try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. To fight this problem, doctors suggest parents talk to their kids before they go to college about medication and counseling.