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Colleges Confront Misuse of Prescription Drugs

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Misuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem on college campuses, where the drugs are used recreationally as well as to aid in studying, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Feb. 15.

College prevention programs used to dealing with alcohol and illicit drugs are devoting more attention to drugs like Ritalin and Adderral, but with limited success. Richard Clark, director of medical toxicology at the University of California at San Diego, said that the drugs are being used as mood-lifters and appetite suppressants as well as to improve concentration.

Students say these drugs are easy to obtain on campus for a few dollars and that there is no stigma attached to their use. “I think it's far more widespread than studies suggest today because the drugs work and because it's so easy for people to get the drugs in this country,” said Clark.

The drugs are virtually undetectable, unlike alcohol or marijuana, and are obtained from friends, not drug dealers.

“A good chunk of college drug-prevention programs don't actually do any good,” said James Lange, director of drug and alcohol programs at San Diego State University. Ironically, what has helped reduce misuse of prescription drugs at SDSU has been the economically driven decision to stop the campus health center from diagnosing attention-deficit disorders and prescribing drugs to treat the condition, said Lange; a campaign to address alcohol problems also may have helped because many prescription-drug users also are heavy drinkers.

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