BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published April 17, 2014
According to recent reports, the use of hard drugs on campus may be on the rise. While the popularity of marijuana is a well-known cultural trait of Ann Arbor, harder drugs and misused prescription medication pose a real threat to the safety and well-being of students. In a recent news report by the The Michigan Daily, not only is illegal usage of prescription drugs on the rise, but students who took the Student Life Survey reported an increase in use of other hard drugs such as Molly. The University can address this troubling trend by supporting students who may be suffering from drug dependence or abuse by better advertising the extensive resources for students.
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The University should work to ensure that students who are suffering or fear they may be suffering from drug abuse or dependence have a place to go. The University Health System has a program for substance abuse called the University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services that students can utilize. However, the existence of the program needs to be made more visible and more accessible. CAPS also provides some counseling on drug abuse and diagnostic screening, called the Assessment of Substance Abuse Patterns. In order to promote the use of these services, the University needs to make sure students know they exist, and provide information on how to best utilize them. Furthermore, students who have used illegal substances may be reluctant to seek help for fear of self-criminalization. It needs to be made clear through standardized and frequent statements to patients, prospective patients and in literature about the programs that patient confidentiality will be maintained with the utmost care and to the highest degree allowed by the law. Information about available resources should also be provided in orientation materials and activities, and be prominently featured in the AlcoholEdu online education program — or a similar substitute — to be completed by incoming freshmen. Proper publicity and education may allow more students to recognize the signs of dependence and utilize University resources to seek treatment.
Though it may be hard to track the degree at which these drugs — such as Adderall and Ritalin — are being used illegally, the main problem lies in the fact that students aren’t aware of the various harmful effects that such drugs can have. In order to help students avoid potential dependency on prescription drugs, the University needs to educate students about the health problems that arise from their usage as well as the resources available to students for help with any drug-related problems, such as UMATS and ASAP at CAPS. However, this information could be more meaningful if it came from a network of students. This would create an environment of community awareness, as opposed to the one of ambiguity and danger currently surrounding the issue. Most students may not be aware of the effects these drugs have on the body, and informing them of these effects through a network of fellow students could spread awareness in a relatable way.
The current state and federal drug policies, created to discourage drug use, exacerbate the problem of addiction and abuse in some, though certainly not all, cases. It is important that the University makes student wellness a priority when crafting its own drug policies. In some cases, programs and warning systems that work with students to reach the source of the drug problem might be better than taking a hard line against all drugs in all circumstances. Administrators should work with law enforcement authorities and addiction and abuse specialists to ensure a way to legally handle violations of the drug policy on a case-by-case basis. Because illegal drug abuse cannot be consistently caught by law enforcement, when a student is caught it is important to provide them with the help they may need. Doing so will help create a safer campus for all students. Forty-one percent of violent crimes against college students were committed by perpetrators perceived to be under the influence of drugs. Further, there is a strong correlation between drug use and incarceration for not only possession of illegal substances, but for other crimes as well. Of all inmates, 82.2 percent self-reported using illegal drugs. In order to help students lead healthy and safe lives, the University has a responsibility to not simply punish drug use, but also work with students by providing support and pathways to recovery.