Florida Atlantic U. Drug-Related Deaths Are Occasion For Reflection

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The drug-related deaths of a Florida Atlantic University (FAU) student and her friend have provoked new awareness of and concerns about drug use on college campuses. Nicole Phillips, 18, and her friend Richard Cardinale, 19, died of drug overdose on Nov. 26, the first such case at FAU in four years.

Although overall drug use is down on college campuses, cocaine and prescription drug use are up, according to researchers.

Addiction researcher Dr. Mark S. Gold of the University of Florida found that many Florida schools, such as the Florida State University, FAU and Gold’s own institution, have seen a rise in cocaine use.

Jim Hall, a researcher at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, said college students are using more and more prescription drugs. A study conducted by Hall revealed that tranquilizers such as Xanax, painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet and stimulants such as Ritalin have become popular among college-age students. They are easy to acquire, said Hall, as they can often be found in family medicine cabinets or bought on the street.

Students use stimulants to help them study for exams and other drugs to relieve the stress of their academic workload, Hall said.

FAU campus police are waiting on the results of a toxicology report before releasing the name of the drug that killed the two teenagers, but a FAU student who lived with Cardinale said Cardinale and Phillips claimed they were using a combination of Xanax, powdered morphine and alcohol.

FAU drug-related incidents have increased steadily since 2003, and university officials attribute such an increase to a younger student body. In recent years, the university has stepped up its efforts to attract and retain students straight out of high school, which may lead to more campus indiscretions.

Vice President for Student Affairs Charles Brown believes the university’s drug prevention program is effective but that the recent deaths will likely lead school officials to intensify their efforts at keeping the campus drug-free.

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