Oklahoma State University staff and students spent hours Tuesday passing out information about opioid and prescription drug abuse in hopes of raising awareness about the increasing problem both locally and nation wide.

More than 90 people die from an opioid overdose each day in America, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates the U.S. spends roughly $78.5 billion annually dealing with prescription opioid misuse.

“Opioid and prescription drug abuse are both a growing problem at OSU,” said Kari Pratt, the health education coordinator for the Department of Wellness.

Opioids – like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine – are prescribed by doctors to help relieve pain but have potential for misuse and addiction. 

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse:

• Between 21-29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them

• Between 8-12 percent of users develop an opioid use disorder

• In 2015, more than 33,000 people in the United States died of an opioid overdose

Representatives from the Department of Wellness and University Health Services stood along Library Lawn – next to 90 small purple pinwheels that represent those that die each day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose – talking with people as they walked past.

Part of the information handed out reminded students to keep their medication in a safe place, to not share it with others and to “just say no” to peer pressure from those wanting their prescription medications. 

Instead of taking someone else’s prescription drugs, the handout suggested eating natural energy boosters like eggs, apples, trail mix and pumpkin seeds. 

Sophomore Josh McFarland, who is studying biochemistry and molecular biology, was one of several students handing out water bottles wrapped with informational reading material about prescription drug abuse. 

“I’m hopeful that if students are abusing opioids, they will get the help they need and stop,” McFarland said.

McFarland said he wasn’t surprised to hear that prescription drugs being used by college students for non-medical reasons has been increasing. 

“A lot of students have the false idea that Adderall – (which contains two stimulant drugs and is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) – makes you smarter,” he said.

Pratt said there is a misconception that only illicit street drugs are dangerous. That’s not true, she said.

With students busy preparing for finals, Pratt said students are more likely to share “study drugs,” like Adderall, Ritalin or Vyvanse with their friends.

“Taking a medication that isn’t prescribed to you can be incredibly dangerous,” Pratt said. “What could be harmless for one person could be deadly for another.” 

The OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa announced earlier this month the establishment of the OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery, which is aimed at addressing opioid addiction throughout the state. 

“Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and now prescription drug abuse or opioid addiction is sweeping to epidemic proportion across Oklahoma,” according to an OSU press release.

OSU has a medical drop box located in the lobby of University Health Services on the Stillwater campus, where students, faculty and staff can properly dispose of unused or expired medications. 

Chris Barlow, director of University Health Services, said it is important to have ongoing conversations about opioid and prescription drug abuse.

“Some of the national statistics… are quite sobering and it is imperative that we continue to educate each other on the societal harm that prescription drug abuse has caused,” Barlow said.

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