COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Alcohol use among college-aged students has decreased in the last few years but officials are now saying drug abuse is on the rise.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people use drugs for the first time when they’re teenagers and it continues into their 20s. In the past month, two University of Alabama college students are said to have overdosed on heroin.
“We know that alcohol and drug use is highest among college people. We know that 18 is the average age when people began to experiment with drugs. We’ve seen a decline in alcohol use among college students and increase in prescription drug medication being used,” says Instructor Michael Valentine in MSU’s Psychology Department.
Prescription drugs cause most drug overdoses, but Captain Loyd Baker with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department says heroin overdoses have been on the rise in last 2 years. Valentine says young people are simply unaware of just how deadly heroin can be.
“Pain medications are the drug of choice for many people and as pain medications have had changes with some of them that make them harder to abuse, some people started to turn back to heroin. It’s a very deadly drug,” says Valentine.
Oktibbeha County Medical Examiner Michael Hunt says it’s impossible to know the potency of heroin before you use it.
“The danger of heroin is you don’t know the true purity of the drug when they get it. A lot of people think that the majority of the people that do intravenous drugs are the ones that die from heroin abuse. Actually, it’s the ones that smoke it,” says Hunt.
The Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department believes the recent heroin drug overdoses were caused by inexperienced users as well as drug dealers who sell inconsistent doses of the drugs.
In 2011, an estimated 22 million Americans 12 years or older used an illicit drug.