‘Thrills Without Pills’ brings awareness to drug abuse

In an effort to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse, Fresno State professor Gregory Thatcher and his community health class teamed up with campus and community experts Monday morning in the Free Speech Area in an event titled “Thrills without Pills” that offered students alternative methods to rid pain and seek thrills.

Organizations like the DAAWG (Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Wellness Guide) program, FREAKS (Finding Responsible and Entertaining Activities on KampuS), PAWS (Peer Ambassadors of Wellness), the Lock it Up Project and PAIN (Prescription Abusers In Need) all showcased their methods to prevent prescription drug abuse.

Thatcher said that prescription drug abuse is an increasing problem among college students, one that often goes unnoticed.

“Prescription drugs are the second largest problem, and they can and are being abused,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher’s class puts on the event every year, and every year the class learns how to make the event better. Jasneelam Kaur, the student in charge of the project, said the goal of the event was to get different organizations together and show the college community where to go for help.

The class provided different “thrill” ideas in place of taking prescription drugs. There were thrill boxes set up that produced surprises, like Jell-O and live worms and crickets. Whoever correctly guessed what was inside the thrill boxes was entered in a raffle to win passes to SkyWalk, movie tickets and rock climbing.

Thatcher said that college students in Fresno don’t really have anything else to do besides party on the weekend. FREAKS, a club that had a booth at the event, aims to provide an answer for that problem.

FREAKS is a club that organizes a game night every Friday night in the Resident Dining Hall from 5 p.m. to midnight. Attendees play board games and video games the entire night, providing entertainment outside the party scene on Friday nights.

Michelle Alcantara, an outreach specialist at the Lock It Up project said the goal of the organization is to educate youth on prescription drug abuse. The organization provides “lock boxes” and teaches parents to keep prescription drugs in a safe place and away from teens.

The program has three components: peer education, a pharmacy initiative that promotes the lock boxes and trainings for high school students. The organization has attended many high schools and junior highs in Fresno County to raise awareness for prescription drug abuse.

A discussion panel made up of experts from the Fresno State campus and community answered questions about prescription drug abuse, specifically in college students. Mark Facchini, a pharmacist at the Fresno State health center, Jim Watson, a lieutenant at Fresno State police department, Dale White, and alcohol and other drug counselor, Dave Smith, the narcotics sergeant from Clovis Police Department and Flindt Anderson from PAIN were on the discussion panel.

Anderson said that after his 30-year addiction and his experience being a counselor, he notices that doctors often prescribe powerful pain medications for minor injuries. He said doctors answer complaints to pain too willfully when it is not necessary, which leads to addiction.

“First we need to focus on getting that person clean, and then we need to focus on the reason behind the addiction,” Anderson said.

Smith said that a major problem with prescription drug abuse is that it is hard to get doctors prosecuted for prescribing unnecessary pain medication. He used the Michael Jackson case as an example of how hard it is to prosecute doctors.

“That was a groundbreaking effort in helping local areas,” Smith said.