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Colleges combat drug use during finals

University Business, July 2013
Campus administrators say students are using online pharmacies to get drugs without prescriptions.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of college students report having taken prescription drugs, often stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, to get through final exams, reveals a study from the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA). A third of those students are obtaining these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. But on a growing number of campuses, administrators are working to change that.

“We know that some students get drugs from family and friends, but we also know that rogue online pharmacies have created a new outlet for those wanting drugs without a prescription,” says Tom Galvin, executive director of the DCA, which aims to educate people on online crime and internet safety. “It is just simply too easy to find and order these drugs online. … We need to educate young adults about the dangers of these drugs and the negative impacts that they can have on their lives.”

Many institutions, such as Arizona State and Oregon State Universities, provide information about prescription drug abuse online as a student resource. But Kenneth Hale, assistant dean for professional and external affairs at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, thinks more can be done.

Starting in 2007, the college partnered with The Cardinal Health Foundation to start the Generation Rx initiative, offering free resources to educate students on the effects of abusing these drugs. Online toolkits include discussion points, scripts for interactive skits, PowerPoint slides, and frequently asked questions, and can be used for student workshops and information sessions, especially for incoming freshmen.

“There are many myths that surround this behavior that we’re trying to crack,” says Hale. “So many students don’t think it’s illegal or think the drugs aren’t harmful or that it’s not addicting.”

Along with increasing education, officials at many colleges are reexamining their student conduct rules to specifically mention that drugs without a prescription are not allowed on campus, Hale says. And campus health centers, he advises, should review how they prescribe, dispense, and dispose of drugs on campus.