Aims: The aim of the paper is to investigate the extent to which university students misuse prescription drugs, using techniques of neutralization to understand and explain their behaviour.
Methods: The study was based on an email survey of students currently registered at a university in north Wales which supports widening access and has one of the highest proportion of mature students in the UK. Just over 11% of students contacted completed the survey (69% were female and 53% were aged 28 or over; n = 558). They were asked about their prescription drug misuse and whether they thought that it was wrong. They were then invited to explain their answers. The responses were analyzed to identify and code the use of techniques of neutralization.
Findings: The most common prescription drugs misused were pain relievers (66%), tranquillizers (18%), sedatives (14%), stimulants (6%) and antidepressants (5%). The most frequently occurring neutralizations were 'claims of biological need', 'claims of legitimacy in view of own prior experience', and 'denial of choice'.
Conclusion: The paper concludes by considering the potential role of techniques of neutralization in preventing prescription drug misuse among students.