UW Colleges urge students to “Refuse to Abuse”
By Riley Hays
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise among college students and young adults in the United States.
One in four people age 18 to 20 use medications non-medically at least once in their lifetime, according to a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
College students reported misusing or abusing prescription drugs to improve grades, concentrate in class, reduce stress, get high, enhance athletic performance, ease nervousness in their social scene or to self-medicate.
The combination of prescription drugs with alcohol and other illicit substances is another concern and can lead to addiction, overdose and even death.
In response, the Alcohol and Other Drug Education (AODE) programs at all 13 UW Colleges campuses are participating in the Refuse to Abuse campaign this year.
“The AODE program felt compelled to address prescription drug abuse because national prescription drug abuse rates have been skyrocketing over the past several years. For the first time in our nation’s history, prescription drug abuse is rivaling marijuana abuse,” Wendy Seegers, AODE program specialist, said.
The campaign provides information about the dangers of abusing pharmaceutical drugs.
“The scary part for me is that because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor, many people don’t perceive them as drugs that can hurt you.
“The fact is that many prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs, especially when combined with alcohol,” Seegers said.
Nathan Hilgrat, an AODE intern, set up educational displays in UW-Fox’s hallway to raise awareness of how it can affect students’ academic life.
“It really factors down to that we want students to be aware so that they have the knowledge that they need if they came across it. If [students] are abusing prescription drugs, they’re not going to be taking full advantage of their academic environment if they’re under the influence,” Hilgart said.
He is interning for the program during his senior year at UW-Stevens Point.
“[Hilgart] said that if you get caught using prescription drugs that aren’t prescribed to you, you can actually lose scholarships and I thought that was pretty interesting,” UW-Fox freshman Brenna Swanson said.
AODE programs system wide have asked students to refrain from misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by signing a pledge.
Program coordinators hope to have 2,000 pledges by year’s end.
“Several hundred students, faculty and staff from throughout the Colleges have already signed…if you see us in the hallway with pledge forms, certainly join in,” Seegers said.
One incentive is to get students to ask five of their peers to sign the pledge and win a Refuse to Abuse t-shirt.
Swanson was one of the students who signed.
“I myself am prescribed medication for something and it’s something that is mine and I should not give it away because it’s prescribed for a reason.
“There should be better ways in life to get a high in life, and it’s not a high from medication or alcohol,” Swanson said.
Sophomore Meghan Crisci also pledged.
“I definitely know that it’s just not something that I personally want to mess around with. Using somebody else’s medicine…that’s just something that doesn’t seem right to me,” Crisci said.
In addition to distributing pledges, AODE representatives also provided information about the Drug-Drop program of Winnebago County and surrounding areas.
Residents can safely dispose of unwanted or expired medications at permanent drop boxes in the community.
In the past year, there were 36 drug-related deaths in the Fox Valley, 27 as a result of pharmaceuticals.
“There are all kinds of issues today with drugs and that’s why we’re trying to make a safe place where people can bring [expired medications] 24 hours a day,” Sue Ashton, public health nurse of the Winnebago County Health Department, said.
Drug-Drop coordinators and volunteers also strive to reduce drug-related crimes, improve water quality of Lake Winnebago and prevent accidental poisoning of children and pets.
The program has collected almost 2,000 pounds of medications.
Locations include the Appleton, Neenah and Oshkosh police departments.
“If you’re on a prescription drug, take it as it’s prescribed. Don’t share it with your friends or family members. It really isn’t for someone else, it’s for you alone. And when you’re done with them, dispose of them within a year,” Ashton said.
Students can stop by the AODE office behind the UW-Fox union in room 1219 to sign a pledge or for guidance related to a drug or alcohol-related issue.