Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

Drug and alcohol use among college students is nothing new, but a recent study found that illegal drug use rates in the United States are higher than they have been in the past eight years.

The annual report, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that about 21.8 million Americans ages 12 and older reported using illegal drugs in 2009. It is the highest level of reported drug use since the survey began in 2002. Information used in the report was gleaned from 67,500 people in the U. S. and is considered to be the most comprehensive annual snapshot of drug use in the country.

The study cited marijuana as the most widely used drug, with usage rising 8 percent. Ecstasy and methamphetamines also saw an increase. Ecstasy use rose by 37 percent, while meth rates soared by 60 percent.

Photo Illustration by Joe Rudko

The report comes just after the Associated Students Resource and Outreach Programs underwent restructuring and consequently eliminated the AS Drug Information Center.

The DIC had been an AS program for decades, providing students with information on alcohol and various drugs.
The Tactical Assessment Program, which the AS uses to evaluate the effectiveness of various programs, found that the DIC was no longer the most effective way to reach students about drug use. The TAP found that there was already a wealth of drug and alcohol information available through other AS offices, and that students were more likely to get drug information from friends or online.

Ramon Rinonos-Diaz, AS vice president of academic affairs, said that the program was not cut because of budgetary reasons. He said it was simply because so many other places on campus offered the same services.

“The TAP program found that the DIC just wasn’t the most effective use of resources possible,” Rinonos-Diaz said. “A lot of other areas on campus have very similar services.”

Rinonos-Diaz said that services like the Lifestyle Advisers Program offered a lot of the same information and services as the DIC, and many offices already offered drug and alcohol information in relation to different campus communities.
The elimination of the DIC does not necessarily mean that students now have less access to drug information. In fact, Rinonos-Diaz said that student may feel more comfortable utilizing the resources the university already offers. He said there is a stigma surrounding drug information, and by not having one centralized location, students may feel more comfortable seeking information from individual offices or programs.

“I think it’s just a different way to go about it,” Rinonos-Diaz said of the elimination. “In terms of relaying information to students, it’s a little bit more comfortable.”

The resources the DIC offered, particularly its extensive library of books on alcohol and drug related issues, were relocated to other ROP offices. The Legal Information Center in VU 512 received the bulk of the library and also offers students a unique resource that the DIC did not. Chris Chatburn, LIC coordinator, said that the LIC is the only office that provides students with lawyer referrals and free legal advice tailored to specific issues. He said that LIC staff are knowledgeable about drug laws, and can offer students advice on drug-related offenses.

Drug and alcohol information is available through the Student Health Center as well. Lisa Rosenberg, assistant director of student activities, said that the Student Health Center coordinates the “Ask the Doc” website, which allows students to submit anonymous questions about drugs and alcohol. Trained health professionals respond to questions within 24 hours.

The Wellness Outreach Center, located in VU 432, provides more broad information on alcohol and drug use. Tarryn Simmons, a WOC work-study employee, said that the center offers private consultations with students if they don’t feel comfortable openly discussing substance issues. The center also provides referrals to other campus and community organizations where students can find more information about specific concerns.