this content was provided by the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.)
NEWTON – On Tuesday, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan hosted her annual College Safety Symposium at Boston College in Newton partnering with law enforcement officials, medical professionals, college administrators and student services officers to address the issue of substance misuse on college campuses.
With 26 colleges in Middlesex County, the College Safety Symposium is an important tool to educate and inform college safety officials about county-wide public safety issues. This conference helps to promote cross-campus information sharing and collaboration to develop effective risk reduction strategies
“We know that young people are using and misusing substances on college campuses. While our ultimate goal is prevention, we also want to help our partners on college campuses to identify the signs of substance misuse and ensure they have the tools they need to most effectively intervene with the students at their academic institutions ,” said District Attorney Ryan.
Nearly 100 public safety and higher education officials attended the conference which focused on understanding the disease of addiction and highlighting new challenges for college students relating to marijuana, alcohol and stimulant use.
The District Attorney’s office has identified several factors that place students at a greater risk for developing a substance misuse disorder including: being away from home for the very first time -- for an extended period of time -- with no parental oversight; depression from homesickness; difficulty adjusting to a new setting and pressure to succeed academically.
Speakers at the conference also focused on areas including the risk for student-athletes who may be more susceptible to prescription drug misuse when prescribed opioids while recovering from sports-related injuries; the prevalence of stimulant drugs such as Adderall, often used to enhance academic focus, on college campuses; and polysubstance use, the mixing of two or more substances. Polysubstance use is a significant risk factor for a fatal overdose because it greatly increases the likelihood for toxicity and respiratory depression.
Speakers at the event were: John King, Executive Director of Public Safety & Chief of Police, Boston College; Brian W. O’Connor, MD, Middlesex Recovery, P.C.; Scott E. Lukas, PhD, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School; Amy Yule, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School; and Mike Duggan, CIP, Wicked Sober.
“Yesterday's Campus Safety Symposium brought together campus police departments, student services and university health professionals to learn the risks that students in college communities can encounter due to the potential for drug and alcohol abuse during college years. I would like to thank District Attorney Ryan and all of speakers for this informative and important event,” said Boston College Chief of Police John King.
“While colleges and universities are places of growth and learning there is also the risk that young people find themselves experimenting with alcohol and other illicit substances. I would like to thank District Attorney Ryan for yesterday’s event which I hope will serve as a way to prevent substance misuse and make college a safe and healthy environment for all of its students,” added Dr. O’Connor.
“The Campus Safety Symposium presented a unique opportunity to discuss the health and safety risks that college students may encounter due to excessive drinking or using cannabis. By taking a proactive approach with educators and campus enforcement officials, this symposium provided accurate and up-to-date information on drug and alcohol use that can be applied right now to hopefully prevent tragedy and encourage good decision making skills among our college students,” continued Dr. Lukas.
“College is a time for growth both intellectually and emotionally. Unfortunately, the daily academic stresses may make students feel that they should seek out alternative ways, like prescription stimulants, to meet high expectations. I am grateful to District Attorney Ryan for bringing together healthcare professionals to speak about ways that educators can recognize the signs of prescription misuse and to take preemptive steps to keep college students safe,” said Dr. Yule.
“Colleges and universities are atmospheres where many students are first introduced to alcohol and drugs. Preventative measures, like the College Campus Symposium, can make a difference in the lives of those who may be experiencing the onset of drug dependence. District Attorney Ryan has been a tireless advocate for helping those who suffer from substance misuse problems find the help and resources they need to overcome their drug dependence and yesterday’s event is a positive step in the right direction,” added Duggan.
In 2016 alone, State Police Detectives assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office responded to 251 fatal overdoses. This amounts to a 36% increase when compared to 2015. Compared to four years ago, it is a 286% increase.
This is District Attorney Ryan’s third annual Campus Safety Symposium. Past Campus Safety Symposiumshave focused expanding partnerships with college campuses, law enforcement, and community groups to better respond to increased reporting rates of sexual assaults on college campuses and Title IX. Earlier this year District Attorney Ryan sponsored a training for college and university police officers on the administration of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan. The training took place at Winchester Home Health Care in Woburn, an affiliate of Winchester Hospital.