Drug arrests increase at UH

Many of us remember being lectured on "saying no" to drugs by D.A.R.E and other anti-drug organizations in middle and high school. It may have seemed easy to say "no" back then, but for many students, rejecting drugs gets much harder in college.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, 19.2 percent of full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 reported illicit drug use in 2006.

With these statistics making news, many parents who are sending their children to college worry whether the campus is going to be full of addicted co-eds and unruly parties. But according to campuswide statistics, the University of Houston has a lower rate of drug use than national averages.

According to a UH Wellness Center campuswide survey conducted in Spring 2008, about 5 percent of respondents indicated they had used marijuana at least once a month in the past year, 2 percent said they used other illegal drugs at least once a month in the past year and 2 percent said they used a prescription drug without obtaining a prescription at least once a month in the past year.

The UH Police Department reported a total of 22 students arrested for the possession of a controlled substance, dangerous drugs and marijuana between Aug. 20, 2007 and Aug. 11, 2008, up from only five such arrests in the year before. The report also indicated that in the past two academic years, 12 students were given citations for the possession of drug paraphernalia.

Even though drug use may be less of a problem at UH than other schools, some students are still concerned about drug use on campus.

"I don’t believe students should use drugs period, so illegal drug use is out of the question. Why destroy yourself?" a mechanical engineering senior said.

Other students are less worried about students using drugs than campus visitors who possess illegal substances.

According to UHPD, 17 visitors were arrested in the previous academic year for the possession of controlled substances, drug paraphernalia or marijuana.

"Sometimes I’m walking to my car or elsewhere in the campus, and I see people who are clearly not students and some of them look like they’re on drugs. It concerns me because you never know who they are or their motives. They could be distributing drugs to students," biology sophomore Paul Bullard said.

While drug use on campus is not a new phenomenon, "study drugs" are being used by college students to improve their school performance. One such drug is the stimulant Adderall, which is usually prescribed for people with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to improve concentration.

"I don’t personally use these drugs, but I also don’t feel that I have the right to judge someone who does choose to use study drugs," art senior Carmen Morgan said.

Regular use of Adderall could cause dependence. Another concern with the drug is possible overdose, which can cause seizures, high blood pressure and hallucinations.

Michael Blunk, a communication senior and the president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at UH, said instead of solely focusing on catching students who use illegal drugs, UH’s drug policy should be to minimize the harm associated with drug use.

"If students lose their life because of their drug abuse, are we really accomplishing anything?" he said.

SSDP UH is working to enact a Good Samaritan policy that would protect students from punishment who call for help relating to a matter with alcohol or drugs. Many students hesitate to ask for help, fearing revoked scholarships or dormitory eviction, Blunk said.

The mission of the organization "neither encourages nor condemns drug use" and its goal is to "reduce the harms caused by drug abuse and drug policies," the SSDP Web site said.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1998 in response to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which sought to deny financial assistance to students with drug convictions. The organization is based in Washington, D.C.

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