Coke and Weed Out, Pills in for College Kids
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Coke and Weed Out, Pills in for College Kids


Weber State University—a college in Ogden, Utah—published an article in their university paper about how college kids are over weed and coke and turning to prescription medications as their new drug of choice. Utah Addiction Centers’ Darron Boberg says that opioids, cigarettes and alcohol are the most common substances on college campuses today.

While the number of college kids smoking weed has doubled since the 90’s, it‘s only four percent at Weber. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20% of college students admit to using Adderall without an ADHD diagnosis and 80% of college kids drink (40% of those binge drink). Coke, meth and heroin are not common, either. Boberg says that it’s anxiety and self-esteem issues that lead millennials to medicate. He also says that the opioids themselves cause problems with anxiety and self-esteem, leading to a “never-ending, vicious cycle.”

A 2008 study of 1,800 students found that 81% of students believe that misusing AHDH medication is “not dangerous at all.” Thinking prescription medications are not as dangerous or addictive as drugs isn’t only wholly inaccurate but the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that, in a 2009 study, students who abuse Adderall are eight times more likely to have used coke, 90% of the non-medical Adderall users were reported binge drinkers and 50% were reported as heavy drinkers. Yet another vicious cycle.

It’s Every School That’s the Problem 

WSU’s campus is drug and alcohol-free, which isn’t uncommon for Mormon-heavy Utah. Still, from 2011 to 2013, the top violations on campus were for drugs and alcohol,with 32 and 54 violations respectively. Yet Weber State isn’t tobacco-free, despite the fact that smoking is clearing the top of the list of the top three abused substances amongst college students. The WSU Drug and Alcohol Policy even states that “tobacco kills more Americans than car accidents, homicide, AIDS, drugs and fires combined.” (Fires, really?) The CDC, meanwhile, reports that just under half a million people die from cigarettes a year. And yet WSU still operates under “smoke ’em if you got ’em.” I’m not saying ban tobacco, but if WSU is going to act all, er, high and mighty about prescription meds, then why not go all the way?

Perhaps it’s because Boberg’s eye is singularly focused on pharmaceuticals. He says that although pills are cheap on the mean streets of beige-colored Ogden, students with less money will turn to heroin (and, wouldn’t you know it, heroin is on the rise in suburban cities). WSU costs just over $4,000 dollars a year, which means that it attracts students that may not have the funds to attend more expensive universities—say, Stanford, with its $44,000 tuition. We can perhaps then safely conclude that WSU students are more likely to turn to heroin than opioids (though this hasn’t been seen yet on campus).

But here are the real facts: Sergeant Seth Cawley of the WSU Police Department says that drug arrests and citations are “few and far between” on his campus turf; also 32 drug violations and 54 alcohol violations sure aren’t many for a school with an enrollment of 24,000. So what’s the deal here? Is Weber State just pulling stats from federal organizations to scare its own students?

Bring Back the Old Drug Stats

I’m going to go on a solid limb and say that WSU may not have a huge problem with substance abuse. Yes, students are getting into prescription opiates and some stimulants. And yes, the ones with less money are probably getting into heroin so they can share a similar high with the SUV-driving kids, Still, maybe this point is moot since there’s a serious problem when it comes to college students and prescription meds all over.

In the last 20 years, prescription med use has gone from five million Americans abusing them to 45 million. In the US, one person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose and opioid overdoses now kill more Americans than OD’s involving heroin and coke combined. On college campuses between 1993 and 2005, opioid abuse went up by 343% and stimulants like Adderall went up 93%.

In short, if you’re a college student, stimulants may help you study and opioids may help you go to sleep after studying but I say you’d better off with the dismal addiction stats of the past. Weed may be out but opioid abuse will weed out a chunk of a generation of its abusers in time.

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About Author

Carlos Herrera is a comedian, photographer and writer whose work can also be found on The Fix . He has been featured in LA Weekly and has performed at The Hollywood Improv among other places.