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Prescription drugs putting students at risk

Sobbing, hysterical, gasping for air on the other end of the phone; it was a year ago last October when I received that call — the most gut wrenching call someone could possibly receive. “Jay is dead, Amanda,” I was finally able to make out.

Jay Singh had finally gone too far, the drug abuse had caught up with him and his body surrendered. He died in the early hours of Oct. 7, 2007 from a prescription drug overdose.

To all of us who knew Jay, the prescription drug abuse wasn’t a surprise and we were all doing our best to help him. It seemed to be working at first but, unfortunately, Jay had simply found better ways to hide it. He was an amazing person, friend and college athlete with great potential and a heart of gold.

Born and raised in San Bruno, Calif., Jay grew up playing soccer. He played for Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and transferred to California State University, Northridge in his third year, where he continued to play. Somehow, at 20 years old, the abuse took over his life and forced him to leave us all behind, wondering what more we could have done to prevent such a tragedy.

Prescription painkillers are now causing more drug-overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined — and it’s only getting worse. I never realized until Jay the impact of prescription drug abuse, especially on college students, where prescription drugs are readily accessible.

I’ve come to realize that something has to be done about this exceedingly dangerous problem, and I’m determined to raise awareness about how truly perilous abusing prescription drugs can be.

According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one-fifth of all U.S. college students use prescription drugs to get high. College students “self-medicating” for anxiety and depression is a growing national concern. So is the abuse of such drugs as Adderal, which is used to enhance concentration.

Students are abusing prescription drugs without even considering the consequences. The fact that prescription drugs can be obtained legally is the key appeal for college students. Studies show that over the past 15 years, the number of teen and young adult (ages 12 to 25) abusers of prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin, grew five-fold — from 400,000 in the mid-1980s to 2 million in 2000.

Research indicates students are buying painkillers from fellow students who were originally prescribed them, but decided to turn them into profit. Students also are stealing prescription drugs from their parents.

The U.S. Department of Education describes prescription drug abuse as “a growing trend on most college campuses,” and the percentage of students illegally using prescription drugs is as high as 25 percent on some campuses. That’s one out of every four students on those campuses getting high on drugs.

It typically starts with a student innocently “popping” an Adderal to help focus on studies, but can easily turn into an addiction in a short time.

I often see it with some of my friends. Prescription drugs, when abused, are just as dangerous and harmful to the body as illegal drugs. Currently, prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana as the most common form of illicit drug use. Twenty-five percent of all drug-related emergency room visits are associated with the use of prescription drugs.

I’m sure every college student has at least a few friends that they know of abusing prescription drugs. I certainly do. The danger of prescription drug abuse is escalating and people simply aren’t realizing it. We need to come together and raise awareness, talk to our friends and families, offer help to those who need it and force affected friends to find help.

How many more friends, daughters or brothers have to die before people will recognize that this is an increasing problem on college campuses nationwide? It took the death of one of my good friends to realize the danger of prescription drug abuse. Don’t let that happen to you.

Amanda Berkley is a senior journalism major.

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