A 68-pound storage box full of colorful pills was displayed on campus Monday morning in front of a discussion panel – a panel assembled to help spread awareness of prescription abuse.
The box held prescription pills deposited voluntarily in a dropbox on campus within the last two weeks. The setting attracted the interest of an audience of 25 to 50 spectators who gathered to learn about the growing issue of prescription drug abuse.
The event, “Thrills Without Pills – The Silent Epidemic: Rx Abuse Awareness,” was held in the Free Speech Area. Community based organizations joined forces to educate students and the community on issues associated with prescription drug abuse.
“Prescription drug abuse is growing rapidly among young people 18 to 25 years old, the age of the majority of the college population,” said public health professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher, event coordinator and assistant professor.
The event included an information booth and activities. The panel consisted of Fresno State Police Chief David Huerta, a pharmacist and other treatment professionals. According the National Center of Addiction, one in five college students is turning to prescription drugs to perform well on tests and tackle papers.
Huerta said that he was pleased with the panel’s presentation.
“The panel made it clear, he said, that there’s much more to prescription drug abuse than just the effect of the abuse. The abuse, he said, “can affect your life long term.” Huerta said the panel explained how people can identify addiction and get help for it.
From personal experience, Huerta has noticed that doctors sometimes provide unnecessarily large prescriptions of pills.
“Do we really need to take Vicodin for 30 days because our teeth were pulled out?” Huerta said. “I managed to do it without any.”
Nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Studies, including those from the CDC, indicate the intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, is a growing concern, especially among young adults in the United States.
“From our point of view here at the university, we know that students are under a great deal of stress,” Huerta said. “We want to identify the student who’s in stress and we want to refer that student.”
Huerta added that many young people have been abusing prescription medications since high school.
“We’re paying attention, but maybe the user isn’t, and we just want them to get help,” Huerta said.
Central California Recovery was also present at the event. Its objective of being at the event was to bring the treatment viewpoint and the assessment aspect of getting help with addiction problems.
“We find in many cases people may not know where to go, just like you wouldn’t know which doctor would be appropriate for a specific specialty,” said Dale White, president of Central California Recovery.
Karen Maroot, chief executive officer of Esano Health, said that more than 10 percent of Fresno State students have an addiction to prescription drugs. She knows first hand about people seeking treatment because Esano Health is a substance abuse treatment company located in Fresno and Merced.
“We’re letting them know it’s treatable,” Maroot said. “If you can catch it early enough, you can avoid a lot of problems with your life.”