Recent celebrity overdoses spark drug abuse conversations

The recent death of rapper Mac Miller has Twitter users calling addiction the “invisible disease,” affecting 2.1 million Americans who admit to taking opiods for recreational use. In 2017, there were over 72,000 deaths caused by drug overdoses, a record high in the U.S.

Colleges across the country have seen an influx of drug use. Between 1993 and 2005, there was a 450 percent increase in college-aged students who had experimented with Xanax and Valium. This number has continued to increase with the popularization of these stimulants by social media influencers and celebrities.

Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug-turned-party phenomenon. Students use it to de-stress, get high and calm nerves. Xanax use has become increasingly popular in combination with other drugs like painkillers or even heroine.

“I’ve experimented but I don’t think that’s uncommon,” an anonymous Oakland University student said. “I know people who have gone way too deep into using drugs, and I think that can be said about a lot of college kids.”

Universities are left with two options—provide counseling and anti-drug abuse education to students, or leave their students’ lives up to chance. Some colleges provide “sober dorms” for students looking to avoid temptation of alcohol and drugs, others offer counseling and treatment centers for students who have already formed dangerous habits.

So, what is Oakland University doing?

OU provides confidential counseling for students struggling with drug addiction. The first six counseling sessions that an OU student or faculty member attends are free. Further counseling costs $12 a session.

In addition to these sessions, the counseling center offers a substance abuse prevention program. This program offers education, workshops and substance abuse assessments. These assessments help students identify behaviors that may be dangerous in their day to day lives.

Dr. David Schwartz, Ph.D., has worked in the OU Counseling Center for eleven years. The center is located in the east wing of the Graham Health Center and students are encouraged to set up appointments and stay in touch with their mental health.

“We normally work on a 15 session schedule,” Schwartz said. “If a student needs further help beyond those sessions we will refer them to a professional in the area. However, if necessary, we will make arrangements for them to continue seeing an OU counselor.”

Students and faculty can also put in a request to have a workshop presented to their class, club, sports team or any other on-campus organization. The workshops range from a number of topics and can be requested by calling the counseling center at (248) 370-3465.

“There’s been an increase in drug use and a decrease in alcohol abuse on college campuses,” Schwartz said.

As of 2017 there has been a 7 percent increase in overdose deaths in the U.S., primarily due to stress, which is often a trigger for drug use and other dangerous behaviors.

“It’s important to stay aware of your mental health,” Schwartz said. “If you feel anxious or depressed it is important to address those feelings. We get so many students who come to counseling for stress and we can help these students recognize potentially unhealthy habits.”