College students nationwide are illicitly using prescription drugs to concentrate, stay awake or get high, experts say.
This particular kind of drug abuse led to at least two student deaths at Trinity College (Conn.) in the past seven months. There are signs that GW is not immune to this trend.
In an informal survey of 100 students conducted by The Hatchet in J Street, four males and 12 females admitted to using prescription drugs for recreational purposes, while 40 percent of those interviewed believed GW has an illicit prescription drug problem.
In the survey, students were asked to answer questions about their own illicit prescription drug use. Students said popular drugs at GW include the stimulant Ritalin, heavy painkillers Percocet, Percodan, Codeine and Vicodin, and nerve relaxers like Xanax and Valium. Ritalin and Percocet were the most popular.
A female junior, who wished to remain anonymous, said she has been involved in with drugs since her freshman year.
My friends and I did stuff twice a week, the 20-year-old woman said. We kind of did everything we could get our hands on (it).
She said she first started popping other people’s medication in high school. Her best friend was a soccer player with access to prescription painkillers. Gulping the pills whenever they drank alcohol soon became a habit, she said.
We started because it was there, and why not try it? the woman explained. It was just another drug to add to the pile.
During her freshman year, a doctor prescribed Percocet for pain from ankle problems. She only used part of the prescription, leaving the rest of the bottle in her medicine cabinet until a friend mentioned he would buy them from her.
They are easy to trade, and you can trade them for anything, the female junior said. People are always looking for them because they put you to sleep, are relaxing, and they take some stress away.
Gaining access to prescription drugs is not hard according to the woman and many of the students surveyed.
You can get pills from friends, parents who are doctors, or from dealers, explained the woman. Most pills sell for $2 to $10 individually.
But the most popular way to obtain painkillers is by sharing friends’ prescriptions, according to the survey.
Once you’re involved in the drug scene, people talk, said the junior. They say, `Oh, I can get that, I know someone who has this.’ It is basically about connections.
The popularity of stimulants such as Ritalin appears to be growing at rapid rates. A preliminary study on the illicit use of Ritalin, conducted by psychiatrists at the University of Wisconsin last year, found that a fifth of college students interviewed from colleges across the Northeast had taken the drug at least once, The New York Times reported two weeks ago.
Ritalin is huge right now, the female junior said. I take Ritalin because I have attention deficit disorder, but I never give them away. According to friends I have who live in Thurston, Ritalin is the biggest thing there.
The female junior said that from her experience, GW definitely has a drug problem.
Knowing how much illegal drugs have skyrocketed in the past two years, I can only imagine how much prescription drugs have, she said. It is just too easy to get your hands on them.
Several students surveyed said they believed the explosion in illicit prescription drug use was linked to an over-prescription problem with these drugs in general. The junior woman recalled the time when a doctor prescribed her mother Percocet after a leg injury. The mother used less than a third of the medication and passed it on to her daughter when the student complained of soreness in her ankle.
Although Student Health Service is taking precautions because it realizes that illicit drug use is a problem, Susan Haney, a nurse practitioner, said she does not think students would go to SHS to get these drugs. They are not frequently prescribed there, she added.
We realize these types of drugs (Percocet, Ritalin and Valium) have been abused on many college campuses, so we are more restrictive, Haney. said. Ritalin is only prescribed to students who have documentation from a doctor that they have attention deficit disorder, and, even with a prescription, Ritalin cannot be refilled with out another prescription.
People who abuse drugs have a system. They go to different places to get stuff. They make sure to float around so that they are not recognized. If they came to Student Health it would be put on their record, and it would look odd if a student repeatedly asked for these medicines.
Despite recent nationwide attention to prescription drug-related college deaths the female junior said it will not affect her behavior.
It’s unfortunate that people die from overdoses, but you basically have to roll with the punches, said the female junior. It’s a gamble if you do this stuff. All I know is that some of the best times I’ve ever had have been while doing bad things.