UNC Asheville administration finds ways to help students with drug addiction

 Lauren Callaghan

Contributor

lcallagh@unca.edu

UNC Asheville aims to remedy addiction prior to large issues with resources for students, according to Dean of Students Jackie McHargue. 

“We have amazing resources available. We have one of our counselors in our student Health and Counseling Center. Her work is for the most part focused on substance use,” McHargue said. 

Drug culture is less taboo now because people receive drugs at a much earlier age than in the past, said Brad Petitfils, senior director of advising and academic success. 

“Once you are prescribed drugs for years like that, it sort of takes away some of the taboo about just being on drugs. It’s just something that everybody is doing and everyone is exchanging. I think that’s part of the problem,” Petitfils said. 

His office often directs students to the Health and Counseling Center when they struggle with drugs. 

“We encourage students to ask for help. Obviously that can happen in any office. It can happen through a faculty member’s office. They can go directly to the counseling center,” he said. 

Jackie McHargue said she oversees various programs that UNCA offers to students struggling with drug addiction. 

Students caught with drugs are often one-time offenders because they learn not to or alter their behavior so they aren’t caught again, she said. 

McHargue also oversees the Collegiate Recovery Program, which allows students in recovery to talk to each other and build relationships. 

“We have a number of students that choose to live in South Ridge because it’s our wellness community, so no substances are allowed in that building,” McHargue said. 

McHargue said students even choose to be placed in a recovery program when they enroll at UNCA. 

“What’s super cool here is it’s not uncommon for a student, when they’re applying to the institution or right when they get here, to reach out to someone like health and counseling or Co-Kema or I, and be like, ‘Hey I’m in recovery,’ and we’re like, ‘Awesome, how can we help support you,’ and immediately wrap that student with support around them,” she said. 

McHargue helps students move through their addiction issues by providing them with support.

“I think it’s amazing that they have worked that hard on their sobriety before coming here. College can be challenging, so if we can get them in a supportive environment right away, that helps with their success,” McHargue said. 

UNC Asheville sees an increasing number of students coming to college already in recovery, according to McHargue. 

“I think helping students move past the stigma of addiction, that addiction is a worldwide issue that knows no race, no socioeconomic status, and we’re here to help, that there’s no shame. Because no one knows their story and no one knows if they would have traveled that path any differently,” the dean said. 

The opioid epidemic can stem from small operations or injuries such as oral surgery or a torn ACL, according to McHargue. 

“Those common injuries you might get in high school or college can lead to that level of addiction. I think everyone just immediately goes to the person curled on the street with a needle in their arm and that’s not where anybody for the most part starts,” she said. 

Students typically get caught by campus police when someone smells marijuana. Occasionally, students will call in a complaint, but they were or their friend was smoking the drug and the person just does not want anyone to know. The student caught with it receives a financial sanction, often community service, has to attend courses teaching them not to continue doing the drug, and most likely gets placed on academic probation, McHargue said. 

Kiersten Slowik, a junior at UNC Asheville, said college students in particular become drawn to drug use because they are away from home for the first time. 

“A lot of people see that as a time to experiment,” Slowik said.

Students often get involved in drugs by using various prescriptions to treat disorders like anxiety or ADHD, according to Petitfils. 

“One unfortunate crutch that people use is taking their ADD medication; for instance, to cram for midterms or finals. There are unrealistic expectations that you put on yourself. You cannot wait until the night before a 20 page paper is due to do the paper but students still try that,” Petitfils said. 

Students catch on to Adderall because of college assignments, Slowik said. 

“They use it as an escape but their grades suffer,” she said.

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