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Heroin on College Campuses is a Hidden Issue, Experts Say

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While most colleges focus their substance use prevention and treatment programs on alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, heroin use is a serious but little-discussed problem, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Campus and national surveys indicate that fewer than 1 percent of college students use heroin, the article notes.

The University of Rochester is now focusing on heroin use among its students, after a freshman died of a heroin overdose. University President Joel Seligman issued a plea to students using heroin to “please get help,” the article notes. The school’s health service director, Ralph A. Manchester, said there is little research on what types of programs are effective in helping college students who use heroin.

The University of Vermont says starting this fall, it will begin screening all patients at the school health center for hard drug use. Students who use drugs will be given a short talk on their risky behavior, and will be referred to treatment. Jon Porter, Director of the school’s Center for Health and Wellbeing, said, “The students who use opiates and heroin are immune to traditional outreach efforts that we might use for alcohol and marijuana.”

While the health center has worked with about 25 students who use heroin, the number is likely to rise since Vermont is experiencing what Governor Peter Shumlin characterized as a “full-blown heroin crisis.”

Yale University Campus Medical Director Michael Rigsby emailed students this month that “several recent incidents have raised our concern that use of drugs such as LSD, cocaine, and heroin is on the rise among college students, fueled in part by a mistaken belief that occasional use is really not that dangerous.”

Some college students who become addicted to prescription painkillers such as oxycodone switch to heroin because it is cheaper, according to Robert Reff, Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator at Oregon State University.

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