Adelphi University’s Audrey Freshman, Ph.D and Errol Rodriguez, Ph.D, were interviewed for an article in the Long Island Business News.

Adelphi University’s Audrey Freshman, Ph.D and Errol Rodriguez, Ph.D, were interviewed for an article in the Long Island Business News.

April 4, 2012

by Kristen D’Andrea

Whether it’s news of another celebrity entering rehab or a local pharmacy robbery by someone wasted on prescription drugs, it’s no secret substance abuse is on the rise. But for Long Island, that’s sugarcoating the issue: Experts agree drug addiction is an epidemic on Long Island.

Although the increase in drug and alcohol abuse can’t be directly tied to the troubled economy, it surely doesn’t help the situation. Still, it’s not just middle-aged homeowners facing pressure to put food on the table or pay their mortgages who are turning to drugs and alcohol. More young people – the most vulnerable to addiction – are struggling with substance abuse issues.

The chain of alcohol- and drug-related addictions often begins in high school with teenagers trying alcohol and marijuana, according to Dr. Audrey Freshman, director of the Adelphi University School of Social Work Office of Continuing Education. Prior to joining Adelphi’s staff last summer, Freshman worked at an outpatient program on Long Island and has more than 30 years of experience in the treatment of adolescents, adults and families coping with issues of substance use and abuse.

She recalls treating a teenager who told her he “wouldn’t do any hard pills, just Vics and Percs,” short hand for

Vicodin and Percocet, both opiates. He said he wouldn’t touch OxyContin because he considered that in a league with heroin, she recalled, but felt other prescription pain pills were fine.

After oxycodone – today’s drug of choice – becomes too expensive, users move on to heroin, Freshman said. Middle-class families will often notice their child veering off course in high school, frequently getting high and binge drinking. “But then [the child] will get accepted to college and [the parents] will hope they’ll turn around.”

Too often that never happens. Studies have found 17 percent of college students report smoking marijuana at least once a month; 8 percent use other illicit drugs without a prescription, such as Vicodin and OxyContin; and 42 percent binge drink.

Nationwide, more than 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers without a prescription in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lara Hunter, coordinator of clinical alcohol and drug services in Stony Brook University’s counseling and psychological services department and Center for Prevention and Outreach, said while the stress of college life can be a factor in students’ addictions, many times it’s peer pressure leading young adults to start using drugs and alcohol.

“If everybody’s high, you’re accepted,” she said. “I don’t know how many students will admit that’s the driving force behind a lot of the use, though.”

Hunter said she’s seen more prescription drug abuse as well as spiking marijuana use over the last several years. In addition to there being a greater availability of marijuana, she said students have a misperception that marijuana is safe, and has no side effects.

Freshman said Long Island needs more halfway houses, sober houses and recovery dorms and meetings on college campuses “to build a culture that can create safety.” Taking a student who was bounced out of college for drug- or alcohol-related issues, putting them in a treatment program for one month, and then sending them back to the same school with the same general usage environment is generally not going to work, she said.

In 2002, the Association of Recovery Schools was formed; 15 colleges across the country are currently members of the nonprofit, offering academic or residential programs designed specifically for students recovering from substance abuse or dependency. Texas Tech University, for example, has utilized $900,000 in federal grants to help campuses build recovery programs. A Texas Tech survey of college students in five recovery programs found that the average age of addiction was 15.

While Stony Brook does not belong to ARS (none of the colleges and universities on Long Island are members), students can request to live in one of three substance-free buildings on campus, Hunter said. In addition to drugs and alcohol being “unwelcome” in these dorms, any suggestion of drug-related references is restricted. “It’s an ideal place for a recovering student,” Hunter said.

Providing substance-free housing to its 25,000 students is “a start,” Hunter said, noting she doesn’t know if enough students would come forward and admit to being in recovery to warrant an entire dorm dedicated to recovery. “Maybe a couple of floors within the substance-free dorms would be something we could consider,” she said.

In addition to the need for more recovery programs on college campuses, Freshman said Long Island’s definition of drug addiction has to change.

“People still don’t perceive drug addiction as a middle-class or upper-class problem,” she said, noting the recent pharmacy shootings on Long Island. “People don’t identify the person who’s the shooter as a person who could also be in their family who is a drug addict.”

Freshman is starting a postgraduate certificate program in addictions at Adelphi, aimed to enable interdisciplinary behavioral therapists to receive specialized training in addictions that can lead toward the credential of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor in New York state. Adelphi also began offering a concentration in substance abuse counseling this semester through its school of psychology.

“There’s a huge gap in the demand in the health care marketplace and the number of students who are trained well to go out and do the work,” said Errol Rodriguez, assistant dean and program director for Adelphi University’s psychology and mental health counseling program.

As economic pressures mount and college graduates wonder what they’ll be able to do with their degree, Rodriguez said he advises them to “go where the population is – right now, that’s substance abuse.”

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
Strategic Communications Director 
p – 516.237.8634
e –

Phone Number
More Info
Levermore Hall, 205
Search Menu