US opioid epidemic spreads to college campuses

Approximately 33,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And now the crisis is spreading to college campuses, Melissa Korn and Jon Kamp report for the Wall Street Journal.

A 2015 survey by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and the Christie Foundation found that college students are just as likely as other people to abuse narcotics. 

Colleges and universities are not required to report non-criminal drug deaths to the federal government, so it's difficult to estimate the scope of the problem, Korn and Kamp report. But, they write, fatal overdoses have become as much of a reality for college administrators as marijuana and alcohol abuse. 

Drug and alcohol education for Greek Life

Korn and Kamp cite several recent cases in which students died from opioid overdoses, on campuses that span from Washington state to Louisiana to New York.

In response, schools have begun building recovery programs. George Washington University (GW) is working on a program that would include both meeting space and a counseling group. GW credits students for advocating for the program, including one student who contemplated suicide during his freshman year after struggling with substance abuse in high school.

Colleges are also equipping campus police—and students—with an anti-overdose drug called naloxone. For example, students at the University of Texas at Austin have access to the drug at the front desk of their residence halls. Washington State University started a drug-risk education program, which includes programming about the effects of mixing nonprescription drugs, and good Samaritan policies protecting students who request help for a fellow student in danger (Korn/Kamp, Wall Street Journal, 5/7). 

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