College is supposed to be a place to open one's mind to new ideas, but too often it has become a place to begin abusing prescription drugs - assuming that wasn't first tried in high school.
"Colleges get a new crop of eager high school graduates each year," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in his opening remarks to a gathering Wednesday at Temple University. "Unfortunately, one of the lessons these students failed to learn in high school is the risks with prescription drugs, and that can play itself out on campuses throughout the country."
Memeger, who supervises the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Peter Doukas, dean of Temple's School of Pharmacy, hosted a daylong series of discussions under the title of "Rx for Prevention: Preventing and Responding to Prescription Drug Abuse on Campus."
Villanova University joined in organizing the event. National drugstore chains CVS/Caremark, Rite Aid, and Walgreens were among the sponsors.
Purdue Pharma was the lone pharmaceutical company to join the program. Purdue, which is based in Connecticut but has two facilities in New Jersey, makes OxyContin, one of the most widely known brand-name versions of oxycodone. Other companies make generic versions.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioid painkillers, a group of drugs that has passed cocaine and heroin as the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2010, the CDC said that overdose deaths had never been higher in this country, and that the spike was attributable to opioid painkillers. In March of this year, CDC researchers said friends, family, and especially doctors were the most common suppliers to people who misuse prescription drugs.
Non-opioid prescription drugs, such as those designed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can also be addictive and misused.
Temple's Doukas said he hoped the gathering would spur doctors, pharmacists and patients - of any age - to be more realistic about the dangers of such medicine when it is misused. He told the group that the human body exists in a "moving and dynamic equilibrium," but that human nature prompts people to unknowingly test its limits.
"That's where you get progress," Doukas said. "But that's also where you get catastrophe."