Chemical structures of “good” and “bad” drugs dictate functions

by Nicole Kwiek

Drug overdoses, the majority of which involve prescription medications, continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in this country. How can that be? If a highly trained medical professional prescribes these drugs, surely they can’t cause serious problems, right? Let me provide a scientific explanation for why they most certainly can.

Any drug, pharmaceutical or not, can be dangerous when misused. The reason for this boils down to pharmacology, or the science behind drug action. Drugs, like all chemicals, have a three-dimensional structure to them, and that specific shape dictates in part where that drug goes in the body, how quickly it does so, and importantly what target it binds.

So what is a drug target? Most commonly, these are proteins that carry out an important function in the body. They might be enzymes that help to catalyze chemical reactions. They might be receptors that help cells to translate chemical signals into a cellular response. They can be ion channels that open up and allow ions to flow across the cell membrane. In a nutshell, these targets do something in the body to produce some type of physiological response.

Drugs bind to and modify target function – that is, drugs can ramp up a target’s baseline activity or inhibit its activity all together. Importantly, the drug-target interaction is typically quite specific, and drugs with similar structures often bind to the same target.

So let’s think about it. Could a medicinal drug and an illicit drug theoretically have similar structures? Absolutely. Could a similarly structured medicinal drug and an illicit drug theoretically bind the same target? Absolutely. So then, could a medicinal drug and illicit drug elicit the same response? Absolutely. The target doesn’t care if the chemical is medicinal or not – it’s just going to respond.

Let’s use the example of the opioids to illustrate this point. Below you will find the chemical structures of heroin (an illicit street drug; right) and oxycodone (a prescription pain reliever medication; left). You don’t need to be a chemist to recognize that these two drug structures are very similar. Indeed, both of these drugs bind to the same target (the opioid receptor), both of these drugs affect how that target works, and both of these drugs can cause detrimental and sometimes fatal outcomes.

Image courtesy of Nicole Kwiek.

The chemical structures of heroin (right) and oxycodone (left) are similar. Image courtesy of Nicole Kwiek.

We can label drugs as being “good” or “bad,” medicinal or illicit. However, the body doesn’t care about the name of the drug or from where the drug came. The body, and more specifically the targets, react according to the chemistry of the drugs.

kwiek_nicole_150Nicole Kwiek, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in pharmacology and Director of Undergraduate Studies at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy. Her interests include science education outreach, pharmacology for K-12 students, and prescription drug misuse awareness.

They’re not all the Same: Using Small Group Social Norms to Engage Fraternities and Sororities

by Stacy Andes

Villanova University's campus (photo courtesy of Stacy Andes).

Villanova University’s campus (photo courtesy of Stacy Andes).

For much of my time in college health over the last 15 years, most efforts targeting Greek-affiliated students have involved campus-wide programs and events that did not necessarily take into the account the particular needs and concerns of our students involved with fraternities and sororities. The small group social norms approach allows campuses to move beyond “blanket” mandated programming that treats every fraternity man and sorority woman  the same [way]. Through the collection of National College Health Assessment survey data every three years and the creation of Chapter-level reports, every Chapter has contributed to the creation of a specific action plan that meets the needs of their members. It has served as a very meaningful touch point for our fraternity and sorority leaders in examining their Chapter cultures and identifying areas of concern, as well as ways in which they are leading the way to a healthier Greek community and, ultimately, a healthier campus community.

Recent data shows that fraternity and sorority men and women are at greater risk for high-risk drinking and non-medical prescription stimulant use. (Photo courtesy of Stacy Andes.)

Recent data shows that fraternity and sorority men and women are at greater risk for high-risk drinking and non-medical prescription stimulant use. (Photo courtesy of Stacy Andes.)

With the latest data collection effort, we continued to mirror national trends of substance use and [misuse]. We continued to identify high-risk alcohol use as a particular risk for our Greek men and women. However, alongside high-risk alcohol use, we found that fraternity men and sorority women are also at much greater risk for non-medical prescription stimulant use. This is something that the research literature has been telling us for some time, but our Chapter reports were finally bearing the same fruit. With the ability to speak much more specifically (and confidentially, I might add) to the level of risk within each fraternity and sorority Chapter, our leadership has seen the research translated into their reality. This has been a very powerful vehicle for sharing what we know with what they are actually experiencing. Using aggregate campus data would never have painted this picture, certainly not with the level of detail that we are now able to provide to our Chapters through the small group social norms process. Rather than compare themselves against the average student, this process allows them to compare themselves to one another (e.g., fraternity Chapter with other fraternity men and to themselves over time) which is a much more believable comparison point for our Greek-affiliated students.

As an influential sub-population on campus, fraternities and sororities have the social capital and connection to exert positive change related to a number of health issues (e.g., alcohol and other substance use, sexual violence), and this small group social norms approach has allowed each Chapter to take ownership over that influence. Rather than feeling like targets or like “we’re all the same,” our fraternity and sorority leadership is beginning to embrace their social capital for positive change. Rather than considering various health issues separately, the small group social norms approach and the creation of Chapter-level reports and action plans has helped staff and students make connections between their reported attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around a variety of issues. It is the only approach that has also allowed us to successfully navigate conversations about substance use (alcohol and prescription stimulants, most notably) with our Greek-affiliated students in a way that has heightened awareness and commitment to positive change.

Andes_4Stacy Andes has worked in the field of health promotion for more than 14 years and has served as the Director of Health Promotion at Villanova University since 2006. In 2010, she completed her dissertation on non-medical prescription drug use (NMPDU) among college students and created a toolkit for health promotion professionals to begin to assess, address and prevent NMPDU on college campuses.

The Ohio College Initiative

by Cindy Clouner

ohio college initiativeThe landscape of higher education has changed in many ways in the past two decades, but one thing that continues is the challenge that colleges and universities face in addressing high-risk drinking.  The potential negative consequences of high-risk drinking are endless and can be compounded when mixed with other drugs, including prescription drugs.  Recognizing this need, Drug Free Action Alliance created the Ohio College Initiative, the nation’s first statewide initiative to address high-risk drinking, in 1996 and has continued to drive this unique collaboration.

A member of the Ohio College Initiative, The Higher Education Center, is located in Stillman Hall at The Ohio State University. (Photo courtesy of

The Ohio College Initiative focuses on decreasing high-risk alcohol use by utilizing environmental prevention strategies, specifically reducing access and availability; reducing marketing and promotion of substances; increasing consistent enforcement of laws and policies; increasing social, recreational, and academic options; and creating a health promoting environment.  These strategies echoed the prevention philosophy of the former Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, considered the nation’s primary resource for college and university prevention programming.   The Higher Education Center was an important ally in the work of the Ohio College Initiative and provided technical assistance and support.  With limited resources, it was imperative that campuses not only relied on each other, but also on the communities in which they were located.  In the first year, 19 institutions created campus-community coalitions to address high-risk drinking.

Almost twenty years later and with 53 member institutions, this pioneering initiative is still in existence. Although high-risk drinking prevention will always be at the heart of the Ohio College Initiative, in recent years many institutions have seen an increase in the number of students using marijuana and misusing prescription drugs.  The need to address these issues in an effective way is evident and with the rebirth of the Higher Education Center in our backyard, there is no better time than now to refocus the collaborative efforts of Ohio’s college campuses.  With a formal partnership between the Higher Education Center and Drug Free Action Alliance, colleges and universities across the state will have access to support, education, technical assistance, and opportunities for networking that will assist them in building strong prevention programs to address not only high-risk drinking, but also the increase in marijuana use and prescription drug misuse among their students.  Members of the Ohio College Initiative will be meeting in May to celebrate this new chapter in its history and learn more about the opportunities it brings.


The Ohio College Initiative is supported by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.  To learn more about the Ohio College Initiative, please visit

Cindy ClounerCindy Clouner is the Program Manager for the Ohio College Initiative through Drug Free Action Alliance.

Gen Rx U Spotlight: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy

by Sara Harstad

Katy's Kids 1

Photo courtesy of Sara Harstad.

Student pharmacists at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy are actively involved in educating the Erie community about safe medication use. Specifically, this has become the mission of a collaborative effort between APhA’s Generation Rx and Katy’s Kids programs.

Katy’s Kids was developed by the University of Iowa and focuses on poison prevention for preschool and elementary-aged children.  It has spread across the country, and Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association (PPA) has encouraged the schools of pharmacy in Pennsylvania to implement this program locally. With the recent expansion of Generation Rx to include poison prevention in its drug abuse education, we decided to combine these two initiatives. Due to increases in opioid abuse and heroin overdoses throughout the state of Pennsylvania since 2011, we believe it is important to educate Erie’s youth about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and abuse from a young age. For this reason, our Generation Rx/Katy’s Kids programming works to relay information to Erie’s youth that they may not be receiving at home.

In the past year, our Katy’s Kids program has also partnered with Safe Kids Erie, a local public health organization, to educate school-aged children and adolescents about poison prevention, the dangers of taking medication without adult supervision, and the danger in assuming that an unknown liquid or solid is safe to consume. Our most recent addition to our Katy’s Kids presentations included the adoption of “Spike’s Poison Prevention Adventure” for grades K-2, where the theme song includes phrases such as “If you don’t know what it is, stay away… If you think it might be poison, stay away.” The main take-home message is, “Quills up, stay away!”

Katy's Kids 6

Photo courtesy of Sara Harstad.

Our mainstay activities for grades 3-6 include games where students try to decipher between two similar products presented to them, and determine which one is the candy and which is the medicine.  This activity helps enforce the fact that poison can look like candy and vice versa. A good example of look-a-likes includes the comparison of chocolate to laxatives or the comparison of apple juice to Pine-Sol. A new activity we have in mind for next year that may help enforce this concept is to have kids take The Jelly Bean Challenge. This challenge is a popular game among children, where the child chooses between two identical Jelly Beans to taste, one with an unpleasant taste, and one with a pleasant taste. We can then explain to the children how this can be related to the difficulty of determining what is a poison and what is not.

We are always looking for opportunities to reach out to new schools and educational programs where we can present our Katy’s Kids and Generation Rx information, in order to reach out to as many youth as possible. In this upcoming year, we are planning to expand Generation Rx by reaching out to inner city schools, after school programs, and local colleges, where prescription drugs abuse, such as Adderall, may be prevalent. Other ideas for presentations include teaming up with local undergraduate medical programs, such as physician assistant, physical therapy, and nursing programs to educate about the importance of medical care teams and the opportunities for collaboration between pharmacists and other medical professionals in identifying and addressing prescription drug abuse.

The newest population of individuals to whom we’re interested in reaching out includes those who are imprisoned. The most recent reports available for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections from 2013, stated that 26.8 percent of offenses for those imprisoned were related to violations of narcotic drug laws. Following a presentation at a Women’s State Correctional Institute, we learned that a majority of those inmates were imprisoned for offenses that were secondary to their drug abuse problems, and, even more surprising, 75 percent of pregnant inmates were being maintained on methadone throughout their pregnancy. We recognize that many of these inmates are parents; we can impact not only their safety, but their children’s safety, as well.

Seeing some of the life-altering consequences that drug abuse has on individuals was an eye opening experience for our Generation Rx/Katy’s Kids members, and has only inspired and challenged our APhA-ASP chapter to continue to reach further into the Erie community to educate and reduce the prevalent prescription drug abuse.

We are proud of the development and outreach of our Generation Rx program thus far. Our initiatives have been recognized and applauded by local government officials who are also passionate about keeping the children in our community safe. We are confident that the changes we have made in the past year by including Spike’s message, combining Generation Rx with Katy’s Kids, and partnering with Safe Kids Erie will bring about positive effects that will benefit our community, and we cannot wait to see how these changes impact our outreach in the coming years! From Spike’s perspective, “Quills down, stay close!” by keeping an eye on our chapter!

sara harstadSara just completed her first year at LECOM School of Pharmacy’s accelerated program. She loved her involvement with GenRx/Katy’s Kids this past year, serving as the program’s co-chair. Sara came to LECOM from Minnesota and has hopes of returning to the Midwest for residency upon graduation in 2017.

Naloxone Dispensing in Ohio

Written by Kelsey Kresser

It is an exciting time for pharmacy in Ohio, as several bills have recently been introduced that have the potential to affect the future of pharmacy practice. One issue that has received a lot of attention is naloxone dispensing. As many are already aware, the opioid epidemic is a huge public health concern in Ohio and across the nation. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, which means our citizens are more likely to die from a drug overdose than a motor vehicle accident. This is simply unacceptable.

If a drug user overdoses, naloxone (Narcan) can be used to restore normal breathing and save his or her life. Current law in Ohio allows paramedics and first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, to carry the drug. In 2014, Governor John Kasich also signed House Bill 170 into law, which allowed physicians to prescribe naloxone to active drug users, family members, and friends of those who may be at risk.

An intranasal naloxone kit such as this one can be used in the event of an opioid overdose to reverse respiratory depression and prevent opioid-related death. Image courtesy of CBS News.

Now House Bill 4 has been introduced to the Ohio General Assembly.  HB 4 would allow pharmacists and pharmacy interns in Ohio to dispense naloxone without a prescription. The passage of this law will greatly increase access to this life-saving drug and help combat the opioid epidemic in Ohio. HB 4 has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously and is currently awaiting action in the Ohio Senate. If the bill is passed, Ohio would be the seventh state to allow pharmacists and pharmacy interns to dispense naloxone without a prescription. [Currently, California, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Rhode Island, and Vermont allow dispensing of naloxone without a prescription.]

This issue is very important to me as a student pharmacist not only because I am an active member in Generation Rx, but also because opioid misuse is likely to be a very important issue throughout my career. Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers and are instrumental members of the health care team. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give testimony in support of HB 4 to the Ohio Health and Aging Committee, and I was very encouraged by the feedback I received from Ohio’s representatives. Many legislators do not know the education pharmacists receive today, nor do they fully understand the scope of pharmacy practice. Students’ voices are powerful, and legislators listen to students who are passionate about their profession. I encourage student pharmacists across the country to be aware of the issue of naloxone dispensing, as it will likely affect many of us throughout our careers. I hope that by learning about HB 4, you are encouraged by the work that Ohio is doing to put pharmacists in position to combat the opioid epidemic.

Pharmacy student Kelsey Kresser testified before the Ohio House of Representatives Health & Aging Committee about HB 4 on February 18, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Ken Hale.)

Pharmacy student Kelsey Kresser testified before the Ohio House of Representatives Health & Aging Committee about HB 4 on February 18, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Ken Hale.)

kelsey kresser

Kelsey Kresser is a second-year Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.


Gen Rx U Spotlight: University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Generation Rx members present an activity to middle and high school students. (Photo courtesy of Landon Weaver.)

University of Minnesota Generation Rx members present an activity to middle and high school students. (Photo courtesy of Landon Weaver.)

by Landon Weaver

The Generation Rx program has been active for just over a year now in Minnesota.  The University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy operates as one college under two unified yet distinct campuses; one is in urban Minneapolis, and the other is in the more rural city of Duluth. Generation Rx was first implemented on the Duluth campus in the fall of 2013, and student pharmacists enjoyed educating middle and high school students about the very real dangers of prescription drug misuse. Due to the success of Generation Rx on the Duluth campus, the program was implemented on the Twin Cities campus starting in September 2014. Prior to this, the College of Pharmacy used a similar Minnesota-based program known as AWARxE. AWARxE also focused on educating youth on the dangers of prescription drug misuse. However, the program was somewhat limited, as it only provided content for use with middle- and high school-aged students. Aligning with the Generation Rx program on a national level has allowed the College of Pharmacy to raise awareness of the dangers of drug abuse for more individuals in both rural and urban Minnesota communities, particularly in underserved communities. This has allowed students to maximize the impact of this community outreach and public health initiative.

I cannot state how beneficial it was to attend the Generation Rx University Conference [The Higher Education Center’s National Meeting] last August.  I would highly encourage any chapters looking to expand their Generation Rx programs to attend.  Many of the projects we are incorporating came from ideas discussed there.  We have expanded our presentations from primarily being aimed at middle and high school students to now include education initiatives for faculty and staff, and we are hoping to continue this expansion.  Through social media like Twitter and Facebook, we are now raising awareness to those previously out of our geographical reach.  Additionally, plans are in place to donate a medication take back box to a rural area in need.  During one of the sessions at the conference, we learned about the use of rescue naloxone for reversing opioid overdoses by police officers in Ohio.  With inspiration from this discussion, our Minnesota chapter of APhA-ASP created a policy for our midyear regional meeting suggesting a similar stance be taken by the American Pharmacists Association.  All of these ideas have allowed for a growing number of individuals to become involved with Generation Rx at the University of Minnesota.

A new initiative we are excited to announce is our Dodgeball for Drug Misuse Tournament coming up in April.  Generation Rx capitalized on the growing demand for dodgeball on the Duluth campus and coordinated with our APhA-ASP student chapter to coordinate the tournament. Through this exciting event, we will provide an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff to participate in dodgeball while also raising awareness and educating the public about prescription drug misuse.  More information can be found here: and be sure to follow us on Twitter (@genrxmn)!

005Landon Weaver is the current Generation Rx Coordinator on the University of Minnesota, Duluth, campus.  He also serves as the Worthy Chief Counselor of the Beta Psi chapter of Phi Delta Chi and as secretary for the UM College of Pharmacy student government.

The Generation Rx Lab: A Fun and Innovative Way to Increase Awareness

Molly Downing, Assistant Director of the Generation Rx Lab at COSI, helps kids create their own hand sanitizer during an activity in the lab, "Germinator."

Molly Downing, Assistant Director of the Generation Rx Lab at COSI, helps kids create their own hand sanitizer during an activity in the lab, “Germinator.” (Photo Credit: Courtesy of COSI)

The Generation Rx Initiative at Ohio State University aims to broadly spread awareness about the growing problem of prescription drug misuse. Our audiences range from young elementary-aged kids to senior citizens, and like many organizations involved in this type of work, we are constantly devising innovative ways to deliver our message. One way that we have found success? Mobilize college students to lead outreach activities. We are amazed at the energy and creativity these students bring to spearhead so much of our work. Another innovative approach? Develop creative partnerships. Don’t be afraid to open up conversation with an unexpected group or institution; you may be surprised to find a common mission!
Here, we discuss how we’ve applied these strategies in the Generation Rx Laboratory at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), a unique drug education and research space housed within a premier science museum. In this space, which is supported by the Cardinal Health Foundation, college students work with faculty to develop and deliver educational experiments that museum visitors can conduct during their visit. In the process, these guests of all ages learn the science behind drug action as well as a lesson in medication safety. Here is Nira Kadakia, a second-year PharmD student and a longtime Generation Rx participant, speaking about her experience in the lab:
Through working at the Generation Rx Lab, I have had a unique opportunity to practice and build my science communication skills, while spreading the Generation Rx message. By utilizing college students to conduct and lead activities, COSI guests are afforded the chance to learn about science and medication safety in fun ways; in fact, sometimes it doesn’t seem like learning at all! For example, as part of one of our original activities, we had guests taste PTC paper, which contains a chemical some people can taste while others cannot. We used this to segue into an activity involving DNA extraction with a sports drink and soap. This may have seemed like simply a fun science experiment, but we used the activity to set up a discussion of personalized medicine and the fact that medicines do not work the same way in everybody. Our underlying message, therefore, was focused on medication safety.
photo 1

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Molly Downing and Emily Keeler

Recently, the lab welcomed a new addition to its family: a METIman medical robot, which affords lab guests the opportunity to simulate emergency medical treatments. So far, the dummy (Bob the Abra Cadaver) has experienced hypoglycemia, an allergic reaction, and a heart attack. Guests have been able to follow step-by-step protocols to help resolve Bob’s health crises.

One thing that has been the most beneficial to my colleagues and me has been being able to practice communication skills. As future health professionals, it is imperative that we are able to take high-level, abstract ideas and concepts and explain them in a way the general public can understand. The Generation Rx Lab is a great place in which to do this. Students interact with children of all ages and their families – not all of whom have backgrounds in science. Furthermore, each activity done in the Generation Rx Lab is designed to raise awareness about medication safety and preventing the misuse of medications. It is just one more innovative way to spread the Generation Rx message even further.​
The Generation Rx Lab is supported by the Cardinal Health Foundation. Learn more about the Generation Rx Lab at

kwieknirabothNicole C. Kwiek, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy. She is director of the Generation Rx Lab at COSI.




Nira Kadakia is a second-year Doctor of Pharmacy student at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.

Dr. Kenneth M. Hale: The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery


The Higher Education Center Leadership team: Standing (left to right) – Kristin Dahlquist, Program Manager; John Clapp, Director; Ken Hale, Associate Director. Seated – Connie Boehm, Associate Director.

The Higher Education Center Leadership team: Standing (left to right) – Kristin Dahlquist, Program Manager; John Clapp, Director; Ken Hale, Associate Director. Seated – Connie Boehm, Associate Director.

College is a seminal time in a young person’s life. It’s a time for intellectual and social growth. It’s a time for the formulation of passions and future professional pathways. It’s an exciting time of experimentation, but there are also hazards on our campuses that sometimes derail students and disrupt the attainment of their great potential. High-risk drinking and the misuse of drugs are among these critical hazards, and our colleges and universities understand the need to create safe environments and educate students about the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse.

The new Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery has been established at the Ohio State University to support colleges and universities in this important work. This partnership between the Colleges of Social Work and Pharmacy and the Office of Student Life provides education and training, research and evaluation, technical assistance, and technology development to help colleges and universities prevent drug and alcohol misuse. We also have a strong emphasis in supporting the establishment of collegiate recovery communities.

The Higher Education Center actually replaces a similar organization that was established through the U.S. Department of Education but lost its funding in 2012. Dr. John Clapp led that effort, and he is the Director of the new Higher Education Center as
well. The Center is developing myriad resources to help college and HECAOD_iconcommunity leaders develop, implement, and evaluate programs and policies to reduce problems experienced by students related to alcohol and other drug misuse. A few examples of these efforts include the provision of educational webinars and development of innovative tools for screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment (SBIRT). The Center’s website is being established at, and you can follow HECAOD on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Make plans now to join us at the inaugural Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery National Meeting, August 4-6, 2015, at Ohio State’s Blackwell Inn & Conference Center.

hale_150Dr. Kenneth M. Hale is Associate Director of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery.

John Burke: Alcohol and prescription stimulants a dangerous combination

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In our local paper a mother grieves the loss of her college son who has died due to a combination of abusing alcohol and one of the popular ADHD stimulants. The official cause of death is listed as alcohol toxicity in the coroner’s report.

Apparently what happened is while the student was devouring significant amounts of alcohol, he was also snorting the prescription stimulant at the same time. This allowed him the ability to ingest more alcohol than he could have normally consumed, due to the stimulant effect of the pharmaceutical.

He simply was not obtaining the true impact of the amount of alcohol he was taking due to the stimulant impact. However, once the alcohol blood level reached a certain point, even the stimulant could not keep him from a tragic death.

The stimulant was obtained either from a friend or dealer and, of course, is relatively a common method to be able to drink more at parties and other social events college aged students attend. Although pain relievers still rank the highest in college student abuse among pharmaceuticals (RADARS® 2014), the deadly combinations of stimulants or benzodiazepines mixed with alcohol may be just as dangerous.

Perhaps the most important thing lost in this article was that it seemed to consider the consumption of large amounts of alcohol to be the rite of passage for college students, with the true villain here being the prescription stimulant. There is probably no doubt that the student would not have died without taking the stimulant with the alcohol, but the opposite would also likely be true.

In 47 years of law enforcement I have seen the devastation of alcohol abuse. In my opinion, alcohol has caused more collaborative damage than all of the other illicit drugs combined, yet with it being legal, I think we all tend to consider it somewhat benign. Of course, taking alcohol in moderation with some common sense, as it is by many, can deter negative things from happening.

Prescription stimulant abuse is nothing new, as it has been used by college students for decades in order to focus on their studies. Much of the abuse we see today of these drugs comes from the parents of young ADHD patients who abused them in their college days and now see a readily available supply in their own children’s prescription. The parents may decide to suspend the doses for the child during summer vacation, but continue to refill if for their own use.

The ample diagnosis of ADHD, and even the strong suggestion of some elementary schools that particular students need to be prescribed the drug before returning to class, helps to fuel the availability of these drugs in America’s medicine cabinets.

Alcohol and the combination of many illicit and pharmaceuticals can be a recipe for disaster. Knowing the dangers of stimulant prescription drugs and alcohol combinations is something all college students should consider before a night on the town.

BurkeNEWCommander John Burke is president and owner of Pharmaceutical Diversion Education Inc. ( and president of National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) ( He has served as a law enforcement officer for more than 45 years.

Gary Martin: NOPE Task Force Brings Anti-Drug Message To Colleges

Not long after Narcotic Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force was created in 2002, we decided to bring our anti-drug messages to college campuses.

The reason was simple.

Both the national data (ACHA Surveys) and our anecdotal experience in partnering with law enforcement and other agencies indicated that college students were at high risk for overdose death.

We were aware that college students were misusing prescription drugs, but most concerning was the number of students who were hospitalized for combining these drugs with alcohol— which created particularly dangerous situations.

Often, as a result of students’ privacy concerns, the students’ parents were not made aware of these near-death experiences. As a result, NOPE decided to tackle the problem by raising awareness within the college population directly.  We set out to present at colleges across Florida and beyond. We needed to bring our messages to the students on their campuses and on their terms.

Our first presentation was in 2007 at Lynn University in Boca Raton during National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW). To date, we have done presentations at nearly 15 colleges, including Florida Atlantic University, Barry University, Florida Gulf Coast University, and University of North Florida.

We also have presented at American College Health Association’s (ACHA) Annual National Conference in Philadelphia, the Generation Rx University Conference at The Ohio State University, and National Association of Behavioral Intervention Team (NABITA) National Conference in Naples.

The life-threatening overdose incidents at colleges were the impetus for nationwide College Amnesty policies and eventually the 911 Good Samaritan law in Florida and other states.

Over the years, our presentations at colleges have been mostly well-received. We work hard to steer away scare tactics in favor of providing straight-forward, data-driven messages and real life cases/circumstances without judgment.  We strive to provide answers to tough questions such as the following (see the answers here):

  • How quickly can I become addicted to a drug?
  • How do I talk to my parents about getting help? What should I say?
  • Isn’t becoming addicted to a drug just a character flaw?
  • Shouldn’t treatment for drug addiction be a one-shot deal?
  • If drug addiction is a disease, is there a cure?

At our presentations, students often open up deeply about their friends’, their family members’, or their own experiences with drugs. When that happens, we offer them information and support to get the help they need.

Still, getting students to attend our presentations is challenging. As a result, at schools like Lynn University, trained students have delivered similar messages to their peers.

While prescription drug misuse and overdose deaths remain a national health and safety issue, we’ve made tremendous in-roads at educating thousands of college students about the dangers of drugs. NOPE will continue delivering our messages to college students for as long as the disease of addiction remains a problem in the communities we serve.

image_thumb_2xGary Martin is Vice President of NOPE Task Force and Dean of Students at Lynn University.