Colleges around the U.S., prompted by fatal student overdoses and grieving families, are distributing lifesaving medication and adding on-campus recovery programs as the nation’s opioid epidemic worsens, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some 33,000 people in the U.S. died of opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. College students are as likely as others to abuse the narcotics, found a survey of 1,200 college-aged adults that year by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and the Christie Foundation. Federal law doesn’t require colleges to report drug deaths unless they are deemed criminal. Fatal overdoses have been rising at schools nationwide, underscoring a harrowing reality for administrators: Like binge-drinking and marijuana, the opioid crisis is now entrenched on campus.
“Now, you couldn’t possibly talk about drugs and alcohol without talking about opioids,” said John Downey, dean of students at Queens University of Charlotte, N.C., a school with a 2,300 enrollment where two students have died from overdoses in the past five years. Last fall, three Washington State University students overdosed and died.; a 25-year-old died from an overdose on the potent opioid fentanyl and heroin in a bathroom at Columbus State Community College in Ohio; and a student died from a suspected overdose at State University of New York at Geneseo. Substance-abuse experts believe many colleges still haven’t fully come to grips with the rising prevalence of opioids on campus. “I still think that most administrations say, ‘Oh no, that’s not our campus. That’s not our kids,’” said Tim Rabolt, a graduate student at George Washington University who is in long-term recovery after struggling with substances including pain pills in high school. He is a board member at the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.