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Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem on the campus, according to a survey conducted by the university's Center for Substance Abuse Research to identify budding trends in drug use among university students.
Twenty-one respondents, drawn from a pool of "at-risk" students who are likely to encounter drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, found that all but one said Adderall, a drug prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was either "Very Easy" or "Easy" to obtain on the campus.
Nearly half of those surveyed in April said Ritalin, another drug used in treating ADHD, was just as easy to obtain. A third of the students surveyed said the painkiller Vicodin and Concerta, also for ADHD, were also easy to obtain. A quarter of the students surveyed placed the painkiller OxyContin in the same category.
"We know that this problem exists across the country; Maryland is not unique in any way," said Dr. Eric Wish, director of CESAR, the group responsible for the study.
The students who took part in the survey drew a distinction between using ADHD drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin for improving academic performance and using them recreationally.
"I don't feel like students taking pills in order to help them hit the books and obtain good grades - [is] such a bad thing," said a student who responded to the survey. "I feel like students who are taking them to drink and, of course, snorting them is a big deal. Mixing chemicals like that could be very dangerous."
Wish said discussion is needed about whether drug use in a controlled way to prepare for exams is good or bad.
"Putting the illegality aside, the question arises as to the positive and negative consequences of students using the drug this way," he said.
In addition to prescription drugs, the survey also found that all students in the survey reported alcohol as "Very Easy" or "Easy" to obtain. All but one said the same for marijuana; nearly two-thirds said psychedelic mushrooms are abundant.
The survey noted that weather and time of year affect student drug use.
When the weather is warm, "More people seem to want to 'trip' on 'shrooms in a nice outdoor setting," a student respondent said.
A senior finance and accounting double major, who asked to have his name withheld, said he has experimented with mushrooms at least twice, and pointed to the start of the school year as an ideal time to experiment with recreational drugs.
"Everyone has a free week when everything goes, including weed, alcohol and 'shrooms. Let the fun begin before school begins," the student said.
Wish said CESAR is preparing a survey to document drug use at the start of the school year.
Wish said students may choose to save their prescription drugs for when they really need it - during midterms and finals - opting instead to use other drugs recreationally.
"It's conceivable that other drugs will go up, while prescription drug abuse will be saved until later in the year," he said.
Characterizing the nature of prescription drug use becomes difficult when students are benefiting from them, as opposed to recreational drugs that are much easier to demonize, according to Vanessa Landau, a substance abuse counseling intern at the University Health Center.
"It's easier to [classify] other drugs that depress the nervous system, make people less ambitious or are addictive, and then become an alternative to having real adult development coping strategies," Landau said.
"Instead it's just like, 'Man, I hate this, give me some 'shrooms, I want to lay back and fade out.'"
Other drugs identified by students as "Easy" or "Very easy" to obtain locally include amphetamines, Ecstasy and Percocet.
"Right now there doesn't seem to be methamphetamine," Wish said, refrering to the drug Newsweek called "America's New Drug Crisis."
Wish emphasized the need for further study and that the results of the survey are not indicative of campus-wide drug use. Rather, the survey was intended to identify oncoming trends.
"I think that this is one of the most specialized studies on stimulant misuse in college students, so we're just sort of uncovering the phenomenon," he said.
"We really need to do a more systematic study of these users in order to determine the implications and consequences of the use."