Non-medical prescription drug use a concern at the U

The University of Minnesota is hoping to respond to student needs in the growing trend.

by Cody Vanasse

Prescription drug misuse is a growing concern in America with 18-25 year olds being the largest abusers, but students at the University of Minnesota are hard-pressed for resources for coping with addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse , an estimated 48 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes. Although the issue of prescription abuse has been identified as a âÄúgrowing concernâÄù by the Office of National Drug Control Policy , the issue of prescription drug abuse on campus has gone widely unexplored. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to figure out the extent of the problem,âÄù director of Boynton Health Service Ed Ehlinger said. âÄúAs of right now, we donâÄôt have a good handle on how big of a problem [prescription drug abuse] is.âÄù The University does currently offer some services to students facing drug abuse issues. Boynton offers a class for students who have faced legal or University repercussions for alcohol- and drug-related actions. There is also one-to-one counseling and consultations through Boynton and Counseling and Consulting Services . However, there are no programs on campus to treat drug addiction. Depending on the severity, students can continue counseling or be referred to community resources, such as the University Medical Center, Fairview . Psychiatry professor Sheila Specker is the medical director of mental illness and chemical dependency treatment at the University Medical Center. The center has peer groups run by counselors, which aim to help patients see their abuse as a problem and seek help for their behaviors. The group then provides support for coping with stress and living without using substances. âÄúI donâÄôt think we have a lot of resources [at the University],âÄù Specker said. âÄúI think a lot of people would agree that there is a need [for more].âÄù One of the difficulties in exploring the issue of student prescription drug abuse is the perception students sometimes have of âÄúneuro-enhancing drugsâÄù like Adderall and Ritalin , Ehlinger said. âÄúMost students donâÄôt see [stimulant abuse] as doing anything wrong or having any risk,âÄù Ehlinger said. âÄúBut itâÄôs illegal and there are physical and psychological side effects.âÄù Prescription drug abuse side effects can include increased heart rate, cardiovascular seizures or failure, increased body temperature and paranoia. Students abuse prescription drugs for multiple reasons, including performance enhancement, stress relief or euphoria, influence by peers and abuse as a form of self-medication, Specker said. BoyntonâÄôs pharmacy does take extra precautions when dealing with prescriptions, Boynton pharmacist Jennifer Peterson said. The pharmacy usually only fills prescriptions from the Boynton mental health clinic, helping to ensure accurate prescription dosages and refills. Students wishing to obtain a prescription or refill must present valid identification, and suspicious dosages or refill requests are investigated before being dispensed.