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Ohio State candlelight vigil remembers lives lost to prescription drug abuse

OSU students light candles in memory of people who died from prescription drug overdoses during a vigil Oct. 24 at Browning Amphitheater. Credit: Michele Theodore / Copy chief

OSU students light candles in memory of people who died from prescription drug overdoses during a vigil Oct. 24 at Browning Amphitheater.
Credit: Michele Theodore / Copy chief

Prescription drug use is on the rise, but some students at Ohio State united to bring the problem to light.

The Ohio State College of Pharmacy and OSU Collegiate Recovery Community held a candlelight vigil Thursday at Browning Amphitheater, next to Mirror Lake, for those who have died from prescription drug overdoses.

The Collegiate Recovery Community aims to help students who are in active recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, according to its website.

Some students who attended the event said the purpose of the event was to remember.

“The whole point is just a memorial of the lives that were lost for prescription drug abuse by honoring them,” said Bethany Hipp, a first-year graduate student in pharmacy who got involved in the event through the College of Pharmacy.

Hipp said the groups also wanted to raise awareness about the scope of prescription drug abuse.

“When people think about prescription drug problems, they kind of have a typical person in mind … (and think) this only affects these types of people, but what a lot of the community doesn’t realize is addiction has no prejudice,” she said. “It’s not specific for one person or another. There’s no typical addict or typical drug dealer.”

One in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, according to a study from the Partnership at Drugfree.org.

Andrew Campbell, a member of the Collegiate Recovery Community, said it’s important to break down stereotypes about drug abuse and educate people about the potential consequences.

“I came from a great family,” he said at the vigil. “I wasn’t aware that (using oxycodone) was essentially like using synthetic heroin.”

Campbell, who came to OSU in 2005 and studied in the Fisher College of Business, said he was introduced to oxycodone in his early years of college. Eventually, he said he started selling drugs and became addicted.

Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States. More than 100 people die daily as a result of drug overdose, and almost 7,000 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Divya Verma, a second-year in pharmacy, said there are often misconceptions on college campuses about prescription drugs, including the stimulant Adderall.

“You do hear a lot of students being at SEL (Science and Engineering Library, renamed the 18th Avenue Library in Spring 2013) or they’re studying and they’re like, ‘Here, take an Adderall, it’ll cause you to focus,’” she said. “(But) taking someone else’s prescription medication that’s not prescribed for you … you don’t know how it’s going to react with your body. If a prescription is written for you from a doctor, it’s only for you.”

Hipp cautioned casual drug use can be the start of something more problematic.

“You’re becoming dependent on something to get good grades when you could easily do it on your own and that’s the definition of addiction,” she said.

Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused substance, after alcohol and marijuana, by Americans age 14 and older, and Adderall was the most common prescription drug used by high school seniors, at 7.6 percent, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study revised May 2013.

Melissa Brown, executive director of Hope Blooms based in Logan, Ohio, created her organization to promote physical and spiritual health of individuals after her daughter Hannah died from mixed alcohol and oxycodone in 2010. Brown spoke at the vigil to promote education of students about the addictive effects of prescription drugs.

“(Hannah) had no idea what deadly combination she’d done,” Brown said. “Kids have no idea what they’re playing with.”

The event began with a social gathering that allowed people to talk about their experiences related to prescription drugs and ended with about 40 people gathering in a circle to light candles. Each candle represented a different death from across the nation caused by a prescription drug overdose.

Some OSU students said they felt it was important to attend.

“For me as a pharmacy student, it’s important to be educated,” said Godsfavour Umoru, a first-year graduate student in pharmacy. “Usually there’s a stigma when people die that families grieve alone, but that’s not true.”

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