Yeah, Yeah, College Kids Take Drugs (snore)....WHAT???!! 75 Arrests?

May 07 2008 Published by under Cannabis, Cocaine, Drug Fatality, MDMA, Opiates

Perennial Playboy Magazine Top-Ten Party School San Diego State University is in the news following the arrest of some of its students on allegations of illicit drug dealing and drug possession. The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting:

Federal agents and SDSU police culminated a yearlong investigation into drug dealing around campus yesterday, ...Ninety-six suspects, including 75 SDSU students, have been arrested on drug-related charges...The SDSU Police Department approached the DEA and county narcotics task-force officials for assistance in December, when it became clear that the trafficking was more widespread than it could handle.
Investigation seizures by the numbers (sidebar; SOURCE: SD County District Attorney's Office)

  • 50: Pounds of marijuana
  • 4: Pounds of cocaine
  • 3: Semiautomatic handguns
  • 1: Shotgun
  • 48: Marijuana plants
  • 350: Ecstasy pills
  • 30: Vials of hash oil
  • $60,000: Cash

Sadly, the investigation was sparked by a drug-overdose fatality, albeit of an anonymous undergraduate rather than someone as famous as Heath Ledger or Len Bias. There is also another drug-overdose fatality caught up in this story.
I want to talk about Jennifer Poliakoff and Kurt Baker today.


From a summary of the reporting on the death of Shirley Jennifer Poliakoff on 5/6/07:

Poliakoff, who many called "Jenny," returned to her apartment on May 6 after attending her sorority's formal the previous night. At about 9:40 a.m., Poliakoff's brother, who lived with her in the apartment, found her dead in her bedroom, University Police Lt. Robert McManus said.
...
Authorities confirmed to NBC 7/39 that the cause of Shirley Jennifer Poliakoff's death was acute cocaine and alcohol intoxication.

From today's MSNBC's coverage of the big drug bust:

Jenny Poliakoff, was found dead in her bedroom a year ago Tuesday after drinking and using cocaine at her sorority's spring formal. She was 19 and a good student, active in a local charity for children with special needs. She wasn't a habitual drug user, her brother said -- just a student who went out to party and made one mistake.
"When they say she overdosed, it sounds really bad. When you hear that, you assume someone in their room doing drugs 24/7, partying all the time and just being a drug addict, and that wasn't the case," Poliakoff said. "She made one mistake and it cost her her life. The big message is it only takes one mistake that could cost you your life or someone else's life."
...
After Jenny's death, her sorority searched for a way to preserve her memory and decided to hold a walkathon, Jenny's Walk, to raise funds for the San Diego Friendship Circle,...The university's entire Greek community participated,

Well, apparently the "entire Greek community" was not all experiencing a teaching moment...
Again, from the SD UnionTribune sidebar (SOURCE: SD County District Attorney's Office):

Suspended fraternities:

  • Theta Chi
  • Phi Kappa Psi
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon
  • Sigma Alpha Mu
  • Phi Kappa Theta
  • Lambda Chi Alpha

MonkeyEgg.jpg
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Naturally, in an undergraduate partying community the size of SDSU's there are many opportunities for even relatively rare drug fatality outcomes to occur.

As the investigation was unfolding, the campus dealt with another drug-related death. An autopsy showed that Mesa College student Kurt Baker died Feb. 24 at an SDSU fraternity from oxycodone and alcohol poisoning.

Interesting, especially as it would seem according to The Daily Aztec report at the time that Kurt Baker was in fact living in the "SDSU fraternity".

Kurt Baker, 22, lived with members of the Sigma Pi fraternity at San Diego State in the chapter's house.

A friend of Baker's blogged the situation at The Brand.

One of my close friends from high school, Kurt Allen Baker tragically died of an accidental drug overdose in San Diego at his fraternity house early last Sunday morning. Went to a party, got super wasted, and did some Oxycontin with his friends just to top off the night. Topped off the night all right. When his frat bros went into his room the next morning he was surrounded in black blood and vomit. They tried to resuscitate him, and he was transported to the nearby hospital, but died. From a combo of Oxycontin and vodka.
He literally partied to death
.

The entry ended with this advice.

With this prescription drug phenom on the rise around our age group, I just beg you guys that if you abuse prescription drugs or have friends that do to stop. I know you don't want to hear it from me, you don't want to be preached to, whatever your reason is...but it will kill you. It killed Kurt. It's not a joke, and it's not a game. It truly ruins lives. Just ask my ex boyfriend and best friend of Kurt, or Kurt's little brother, or dad. Save yourself. Don't be next. Don't make your family and friends bury you.

Indeed.

17 responses so far

  • Colin says:

    Not that I find it surprising but none of these articles seem to stress out that it was the combined use of alcohol and the drugs and that pushed it over the limit.
    It's more than likely that both of these sad students who died were already on the verge of alcohol poisoning (if not past it). On their own oxycontin and cocaine rarely kill people useless the user was shooting up; however, I doubt this was the case for either one of these people.
    There's a sense among heavy partiers that it's funny to drink till you puke or pass out. It's this environment where overdosing on alcohol is seen as safe which contributed to these kids deaths more than anything.
    Kurt Baker probably passed out in his room and his friends left him. He may still be alive today if anyone had the sense to say, "hey he's probably not conscious enough to know he's swallowing is own vomit, we should watch over him."
    Speaking directly about these busts: personally, I'm against the current war on drugs -- I'm more a harm reduction kinda guy -- but I'm glad that these people were busted. It's obvious that they were directly or indirectly encouraging an environment of overuse and uninformed drug/alcohol use.

  • V Profane says:

    I'm surprised more deaths don't occur from the fabulously immature approach to drink and drugs a lot of college kids have.

  • goofy says:

    I don't like the sensational brand of "news reporting" that focuses on the helpless young white female stereotype (OK, and a male was also thrown in there) and some evil villain coupled with blaming the rest of society. Most students don't pay attention in chemistry class or care what mixing alcohol + (insert name of drug here) does other than make you goofy. And those DARE programs certainly brought the message home so this wouldn't happen at the college level when they became legal adults.
    btw, in all honesty, i really enjoy this blog. i visit multiple times a day just for another post. it's like a drug itself!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Colin: none of these articles seem to stress out that it was the combined use of alcohol and the drugs and that pushed it over the limit.
    well, eye of the beholder, of course. I had no trouble picking up on the notion that drugs were combined with heavy alcohol consumption but perhaps that is me. I'm sort of looking for that. Especially when you have combinations like opiates and alcohol that make sense (I think I discussed this in one of the Ledger posts I link to above). Lethal cocaine and alcohol interactions are not well known to me and as always, it is a pity the reporting and/or the ME reports themselves do not provide a lot of detail.
    goofy: I don't like the sensational brand of "news reporting" that focuses on the helpless young white female stereotype
    touche. I don't like this type of reporting either and here I am reporting on these two deaths instead of those of individuals from groups of lesser privilege. in my moderate defense I will raise the issue of striking while the iron is hot and begging off on the excuse that I am not a journalist but rather a blogger who depends on primary journalist sources for some types of material. lame, but there it is. I will note that I do not recall the OD cases really hitting the national news with as much splash as this drug bust. for what that is worth, this partially justifies my piggybacking this media 'splosion to remind of drug overdose.
    goofy: i really enjoy this blog. i visit multiple times a day just for another post. it's like a drug itself!
    glad you enjoy our efforts. reader comments are like blogger-crack, btw, so thanks for the hit.

  • CCPhysicist says:

    I have no idea if this was less of a problem back when most people were taught to drink by adults (going to the bar with dad and his buddies) rather than teenagers. There was certainly abuse (check out the drinking in "The Best Years of Our Lives" or any movie about the business world from the 50s), but also an awareness that alcohol will kill.
    Some idiot freshman owes her life to her roommate (who said "oh, she dropped a few 'ludes before coming to the party" to explain dancing on a bed) and the hosts (my roommate and I) who knew the difference between "life of the party happy" and "eventual barbiturate plus alcohol poisoning". Plus a few others who all helped keep her away from the beer and took turns walking her around the dorm until she sobered up.
    I doubt if the DARE programs mention alcohol. Lots of people don't even recognize it as an illegal drug.

  • Chuth says:

    I just felt the need to remind people that not all college students are in fraternities or sororities...actually, most of them aren't. Some of us (Yes, "us") are actually in school to get an education and simply think this is a classic case of frat boys doing frat-boy type things. It doesn't mean we all need to be classified as stupid kids who don't realize that if someone's vomiting, it's probably a good indication that their body is trying to get rid of something.

  • Dutch Delight says:

    Concerning alcohol abuse among teens, i grew up amongst peers that considered throwing up because of alcohol to be funny, but only because it underlined that persons inexperience and inability to deal with alcohol properly.
    You weren't expected to keep vomiting at every party, the sign of being a "real man" was learning where your limits were and not overstepping them when you know what will happen. Otherwise you'd end up hanging your head over the toilet again while getting laughed at by your friends. After a while, it just becomes a sign of irresponsibility and childishness, if you still can't handle booze when you get to your late teens, you are still a child, a label any self respecting teen tries to avoid at all costs.
    I've never heard any of those peers develop drinking problems (granted, this was "just" 15 years ago when i was about 15 myself), but i suppose that it shows that peer pressure can be a force for good and drive people to either learn to drink responsibly or loose your standing in the group.

  • SC says:

    My undergrad institution in Canada had a detox place in the basement of one of the dorms that was open every Friday and Saturday night. You could bring people there and they would be watched by volunteers until morning. I've never heard of anything like this anywhere else, but it would be an excellent idea at any school.

  • jessica miller says:

    u know the only thing that sucks.... dats alot of weed wasted:( no buddy ever gonna get to smoke it 🙁

  • Jritter says:

    You are supposed to be able to "handle booze" by your late teens?!?! Alcohol + raging adolescent hormones + a desire to rebel against authority figures (as many teens have) = very bad judgment

  • rowmyboat says:

    I might have a heart attack and die of not surprise.
    Really, perhaps minus the guns and large amount of cash on hand, this happens at so, so many institutions. At one of the two undergraduate institutions I attended (a small private liberal arts college), I saw my peers spend approximately the GDP of a small country on drugs and alcohol on a regular basis. Because they could, because they had the money, and because they were addicts. Good students, bad students, middle class, uber rich, white, black, brown, domestic, international, men women, you name it. You just gotta know where to look, and most administrations don't know, so they only ever see the tip of the ice berg, and then get really surprised at even that. (Also, can't go arresting the sons and daughters of important alumni and big donors).
    And for all those who may say that they never saw such things when they were in college, or think that their kids might never be involved -- think again. Like I said, you just need to know where, and how, to look. If you don't know what a drug culture looks like, it might even be right in front of your face, and you would never see it.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You just gotta know where to look, and most administrations don't know, so they only ever see the tip of the ice berg, and then get really surprised at even that.
    I agree with your points to the extent that nearly every undergraduate institution has a good deal of recreational drug use. I might go farther and accuse any administration that really doesn't know this of incompetence or willful ignorance.
    What I think is an open question is how big the iceberg is at a given institution and can we meaningfully discuss whether drug use and availability is higher than acceptable at a given campus.
    I think it is obvious that drug availability is one key factor governing use. And it is conceivable that a handful of motivated individuals with appropriate supplier connections can in fact significantly alter drug availability. I don't know whether that was or was not the case at SDSU. But certainly I can understand that if there was a perception that drug use was on the rise on one's campus, the administration would feel obliged to take dramatic steps.

  • rowmyboat says:

    "I think it is obvious that drug availability is one key factor governing use."
    I can't think of places where drugs are not available in this country. It's just a question of how much one ends up spending. And someone who does a few hundred dollars of cocaine in a weekend is going to be willing to spend a little more, because (a) if you have $300 to spend on drugs, you have $350, and maybe it'll take a little longer to find a dealer, and (b) though they won't admit it/don't realize it, these people are addicted, not just physically, but also just generally to being in an altered state; the idea of having fun while sober is really a foreign concept.
    Lemme tell you, I'd love it if all the colleges and universities out there would do massive busts and clean themselves up, some of those dramatic steps.

  • DuWayne says:

    rowmyboat -
    Really, perhaps minus the guns and large amount of cash on hand, this happens at so, so many institutions.
    I hate to tell you, but these are not uncommon at most major universities either, especially those that are adjacent to a major metropolitan area.
    DM -
    And it is conceivable that a handful of motivated individuals with appropriate supplier connections can in fact significantly alter drug availability.
    Oh, they absolutely can and do. Usually they are just a blip on the larger picture though, because there are powerful pressures to keep them from going for too long. When anyone has a significant impact on the availability of drugs, it becomes apparent to law enforcement very quickly. On top of that, part of the impact they create is to drive down the prices.
    So now they have an even bigger problem. Not only are they bringing heat onto themselves, they are bringing it onto their competitors. Competitors who are already pissed because these guys came in and drove the prices down.
    Inevitably either they, or their competitors go down in flames, sometimes both. This causes everyone involved in the illicit drug trade in the area to scale and hunker down, driving the price back up and providing a vacuum for others to fill.
    rowmyboat -
    Lemme tell you, I'd love it if all the colleges and universities out there would do massive busts and clean themselves up, some of those dramatic steps.
    And herein lies the rub. Every time they knock some down, more are lined up to fill the vacancy. The only way they could really have a longterm impact is to turn campuses into something akin to a prison complex.
    Legalization and regulation would make much more sense.

  • KB says:

    I, too, am a college student (about to be a college grad) and I put my education--and my health--first when deciding what to do on any given night. I was also a member of a sorority, and I do not think these events mean all students who join greek organizations are "stupid kids." I would not have remained in a sorority if I had not met some of my smartest, most mature friends through the organization. Bad decisions can be made by anyone, even if they don't wear preppy clothing.

  • David Harmon says:

    Drinking until you pass out is pretty survivable with beer or wine alone, because once you usually can't reach the lethal dose before you pass out (and presumably stop drinking).
    Hard liquor and certain drugs change that pattern -- just chugging a quart or two of vodka can indeed make you a pure-alcohol fatality. But the odds get much worse when you bring in other drugs, especially other sedatives. Even relatively small doses of ethanol and sedatives, in combination, can kill you. And of course, either sedatives or alcohol trash judgment, so if they're both available at the same party, you've got trouble.

  • Samia says:

    I must be really sheltered. I know this stuff goes on at my school but I'm very cautious about where I hang out and who I spend time with. My sister's in a professional sorority. She's a good kid, and her sorority is great, but I still get weird when she goes to parties...

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