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Prescription drop-off
What: Prescription drop-off location
When: Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Where: Sheriff’s Office Headquarters, 5600 Flatiron Parkway, Boulder
For more info: call 303-441-3629

University of Colorado will educate students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse the next few weeks after campus police reported seeing an increase in abuse the past two years.

CU Police spokesman Ryan Huff said police don’t have statistics proving the increase but, anecdotally, the department has seen a spike in students abusing medications to improve academic performance, like Adderall — which is prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Typically, it’s a secondary infraction from something else we see,” Huff said. “It usually starts as a traffic stop and then (the drug’s) in plain view.”

Information about prescription drug crimes has been included in freshmen orientation programming this year, Huff said.

“It’s a felony to use prescription drugs not prescribed to you, but it is also a felony if you’re giving it away,” Huff said. “If you get caught, we have to take you to jail and you’re arrested on suspicion of a felony for one single pill. That could mean up to six years maximum in prison.”

CU Police have teamed up with other campus departments to discuss educational materials that will likely go out to students later this fall, he said.

Don Misch, director of Wardenburg Health Center, said students typically increase their use of stimulants around midterms and final exams, when they’re looking to increase their focus and stay awake longer.

“Students have reported that it provides laser-like focus,” Misch said. “They can get an enormous amount of work done with remarkable concentration.”

Misch said prescription drugs are the third-most abused substance at colleges across the nation, just behind alcohol and marijuana.

About 13.1 percent of college students have taken prescription drugs not prescribed to them, according to the spring 2011 National College Health Assessment. About 6.5 percent of students have abused stimulants like Adderall, the study showed.

Misch said his biggest concern about students’ prescription drug abuse is the combination of the stimulants with alcohol.

“Some students claim it’s a better high,” Misch said. “But the primary reason to do it is that stimulants counteract the sedative effects of alcohol — but not much else. 

“All of the negative effects are still there but you don’t get as sleepy.”

CU requires all new students to complete the Alcohol-Wise for College online session, which teaches students about the harmful effects of drinking, said Julie Volckens of Community Health.

The online survey asks students if they take prescription drugs and if they answer yes, it provides a link to information about the potential effects of mixing alcohol and medication, Volckens said. There is no specific mention of combining alcohol with stimulants, she said.

Boulder resident Andrew Kahl said two of his former roommates, who were CU students, were taking Adderall for ADHD. After other students found out his roommates had legitimate prescriptions, several of their friends and other CU students began asking to buy the pills.

“There would always be some kids that weren’t prescribed it that would try to get it off of them,” Kahl said. “And it would become nearly frantic at midterms and finals time.”

Kahl, who attended Front Range Community College, said he didn’t see much stimulant abuse until he moved to Boulder and started hanging out with CU students.

“I feel it probably has something to do with the party lifestyle that happens here,” Kahl said, “which leads to people falling behind and playing catch-up.”

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