Prescription drug abuse, sharing on rise among college students - KMSP-TV

Prescription drug abuse, sharing on rise among college students

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    A University of Minnesota cheerleader from Edina, Minn. could be found guilty of drug possession after being caught with pills and marijuana near campus dorms early Friday morning.
    A University of Minnesota cheerleader from Edina, Minn. could be found guilty of drug possession after being caught with pills and marijuana near campus dorms early Friday morning.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem that cannot be ignored -- especially when the faces of young student athletes become attached to the issue plaguing college campuses nationwide.

Earlier this month, FOX 9 News reported the story of an 18-year-old student on the University of Minnesota Spirit Squad who was charged with felonies after police caught her with prescription drugs and a scale in a dormitory. Since then, many viewers have called to say the story goes far beyond one woman.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 100 people die from a prescription drug overdose each day, and abuse among young people is on the rise.

"Twenty percent of kids coming out of high school have abused a prescription drug for a non-medical reason, and one survey of college students recently found 70 percent of college students reported sharing medications amongst each other," Carol Falkowski told FOX 9 News. "This is not an uncommon occurrence."

Falkowski is a drug abuse expert in the state of Minnesota, and she believes that everyone needs to pay close attention to the growing pill-popping trend because the drugs can be a gateway to more dangerous and addictive substances.

"Many people who become addicted to heroin start with prescription opiate pills, so it is something we need to take seriously," she continued.

After airing the story about 18-year-old Ali Van Kirk, many people expressed outrage that FOX 9 News would link her face and name to a deadly and ever-expanding problem; however, Van Kirk was charged with three felonies after police said they found her wandering Territorial Hall while apparently intoxicated. Officers who searched her found several prescription pills she had no prescription for and an electronic scale.

"For every person with a prescription drug, there [are] five students that say they've used a stimulant without a prescription for it," said Gary Christenson, one of the chief medical officers at the U's Boynton Health Service.

Christenson told FOX 9 News the felonies Van Kirk faces need to be closely surveyed to get a better understanding of the abuse epidemic.

"One thing we're going to try to do for the next survey is try to get more specific information because that has become an increasing concern of ours," he said.

Falkowski says health officials also need to start keeping an eye on the vast supply of prescription drugs and why they are so readily available.

"In 2010 in the US, over 210 million prescriptions were written for prescription pain killers, so the supply is there," she contends. "In order to address this problem, we need to look at how it feeds into an illegal drug use."

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