Wesleyan’s Response to the Campus Drug Crisis

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015


Sue O'Connor Wesleyan Summit CROPPED

In February 2015, a number of students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut were hospitalized for overdosing on the popular club drug known as “Molly” or MDMA.  Two students were arrested and later expelled in connection with the overdoses and several others have been under investigation.

The incidents at Wesleyan provoked an examination of University drug policies as well as a chorus of diverse responses to the events. One of the most constructive of these was a blog post on the Phoenix House Web site by Susan O’Connor, program director of Phoenix House Outpatient Services, Springfield, Massachusetts.  In her post, “Missing the Point with Molly,” Sue refutes the commonly held belief that drugs such as Molly are safe when used in their “pure” form. She stresses the important point that young people need to find healthy ways to relax, have fun, and deal with inevitable feelings of anxiety or depression. She also suggests that the Wesleyan administration—and those of other colleges—turn this tragedy into an opportunity for constructive examination of policies and open dialogue with students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

As a result of this thought-provoking blog post, Sue was invited to speak at one of a three-part series of panel discussions with the theme Drugs, Harm, and the Campus, held at Wesleyan University over a three-week period.  On Tuesday, April 28, the third panel of the series, entitled “Drug Policy, Regional and National,” featured three speakers.  Pictured above from left to right above are moderator Rob Rosenthal, director of Wesleyan’s Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; Phoenix House’s Susan O’Connor; Mike Lawlor, under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning in Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management; and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Focusing on regional and national drug policies, the panel presented contrasting views, from Mr. Nadelmann’s “hands-off” approach to Mr. Lawlor’s presentation of the state’s efforts to reduce drug-related crime. Susan O’Connor stressed the importance of proactive efforts to promote awareness of the risks presented by drug use, especially in light of the current opioid epidemic and its terrible death toll.  She also had the last word, reminding those present that drug dealers, even those who claim to be responsible, are making money from other people’s misery.

Phoenix House Outpatient Services  in Springfield, Massachusetts, helps adults and adolescents whose substance use is not severe or long-term. Other programs in Western Massachusetts include residential rehabilitation for adults with more serious addiction issues, residential care with academic tutoring for adolescents, and transitional support services for those just beginning their journey to recovery. In Greater Boston, Phoenix House provides medically monitored withdrawal (detoxification) services, clinical stabilization services, and residential family treatment for women with young children.  A special program with two locations in Greater Boston provides emergency shelter and rehousing services to homeless mothers with small children.

If someone you care for is struggling with drugs or alcohol, call Phoenix House today at 1 888 671 9392. We’re always here to help!

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