As a parent of a graduate student that relapsed and died tragically, I have an important back-to-school message.
For many, this is the first time that college freshman are away from home as an adult. They are making their own decisions about alcohol and drugs and usually have little knowledge of the drug and alcohol policies of the state in which they are attending school. Parents may have trained their children to call 911 at home and quickly come to the rescue while children were at home, but now on their own, do they have the support needed to find drug and alcohol prevention services or to call 911 in a drug or alcohol emergency?
According to National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 3.8 million full-time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription or illegal drugs and 1.8 million full-time college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence.
Do you and your student know and understand the alcohol and drug use policy and treatment facilities available to them in the school that they are attending? Do you know if the state in which they are attending school has a 911 Good Samaritan Law and the legal reading of that law?
Accidental overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death, surpassing even motor vehicle accidents. Getting immediate emergency care can increase the survival rate. As difficult as it may be, I urge you to talk to your child about drug and alcohol overdose.
Find out what school policies are and ask questions. Is the medical staff trained to deal with an overdose, does the health center have the correct medications to reverse an overdose, how quickly does the health center transfer students and to which hospitals? Does the school provide information and emergency numbers about getting support for substance abuse? Is it quality care?
Studies show that fear of criminal prosecution is the number one reason that people hesitate to call 911 for a drug or alcohol overdose. Would your child be afraid to call 911 in a possible overdose situation?
911 Good Samaritan Laws, such as the one in Washington, DC provide protection to those that call 911 during an overdose, but this is not a Federal Law. Only 14 other states have some type of Good Samaritan Law, and many have a limited protection clause written into the law. Not having a Federal Law with full protection, places students in a dilemma when they are caught in a situation that has gotten out of control. They hesitate to call 911 when each minute may be a matter of life or death.
It should not be a crime to call 911. Make the call, you may save a life.
Currently there are 14 states and DC that have 911 Good Samaritan Policies. Check if your state has a 911 Good Samaritan Law and the reading of that law.