No statistics on prescription abuse at campuses

Jess Hwang

With the abuse of prescription drugs on college campuses a growing concern nationwide, officials at Searle Student Health Service aren’t worried that the problem has spread to Northwestern.

“We haven’t had to start to collect statistics just yet,” said Annann Hong, co-director of the health education program at NU.

New York University has not gathered statistics either, according to Jane Bowman, the manager for the Office of Drug and Alcohol Education, but maybe it should.

Several NYU students said in a recent article in the Washington Square News that prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Aderol are “as common as marijuana on campus.”

“You don’t really see this type of problem at state schools, but more at private institutions,” NYU junior Josh Koenig said. “I don’t believe the administration is in touch with the issue because the administrators were caught flat-footed.”

The most common situation at NU arises when a person is prescribed a drug like Ritalin, doesn’t use it, and instead gives it to friends, said Patti Lubin, co-director of the health education program.

According to NU pharmacist Gwen Volpe: “The pharmacy is really controlled. Doctors are careful not to write prescriptions for extended periods of time. There’s not a lot of problems coming from this pharmacy.”

However, some NU students know of prescription drug abuse on campus.

“Of course they’re abused on campus,” said Weinberg freshman Ebo Dawson-Andoh. “People used them in high school. It’s only going to get worse here because there’s more stress.”

Others said that it is easy to obtain a prescription from Searle.

“As long as you sit and wait at Searle, you tell them your symptoms or problems, they will prescribe drugs for you,” said an NU freshman who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s easy to do, but only for the little drugs.”

Certain signs and behavior alert pharmacists to possible drug abuse.

“If a person comes in to fill a prescription two weeks earlier than expected, this is something which would incite us to ask ourselves, ‘What’s going on?'” Lubin said.

Students who suffer from drug abuse can get help from Counseling and Psychological Services or health educators.

These services also can help students who abuse alcohol, which is more of a problem at NU, officials said.

Both categories of drugs may cause serious adverse effects.

“Education concerning the abuse of prescription drugs is not different than the education discouraging the use of illegal substances,” Hong said.