What happened to the good old days when college students only hung upside down for keg stands, ripped bong hits, and occasionally took a roommate’s Ritalin to fuel an all-nighter during finals? Nowadays, students hold up pharmacies with guns and bear spray to get their fix.

We never saw John Belushi do that in Animal House.

Unless you were high last week, you probably know what we’re talking about: Police arrested University of Montana student Daniel Nania for allegedly robbing the same Missoula Walgreens three times in five weeks. When authorities searched Nania’s Gerald Avenue apartment, they found about 10,000 prescription pills, including Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percodan and Alprazolam (Xanax), as well as $3,132 in cash. Police believe Nania, 21, sold the drugs from his residence. He now faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Mike Frost of the Self Over Substance program at UM’s Curry Health Center says the case reflects a trend on today’s college campuses. Through the 1990s, college students primarily used alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, then hallucinogens became popular, followed by ecstasy in the early 2000s. In the last few years, Frost says pharmaceuticals and narcotics predominate.

“And with narcotic withdrawals, getting off the drug itself is miserable, it’s horrid, and it takes a long time,” says Frost. “People just can’t tolerate it so they go back to using all the time, and people often times do things they normally wouldn’t do to get it. It really changes their morals and personality, and how far they’re willing to go.”

The problem extends well beyond college campuses. Mark Long of the Montana Narcotics Bureau reports 320 deaths were related to pharmaceuticals in 2008 compared to just five involving meth, which grabs most of the headlines. And U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer said during the press conference following Nania’s arrest that “prescription drug use is the emerging, the arrived problem that we are trying to deal with in terms of drug addiction.” Mercer went on to acknowledge how this case “really does bring fear to the hearts and minds of the people in the city of Missoula.”

The problem’s more serious, of course, than wishing for the simpler days of Belushi and National Lampoon’s fictional Delta House fraternity. Back then Dean Wormer was the only one striking fear in anyone.

Now we’re not sure what’s more frightening: the extent of Nania’s alleged crimes, or the realization that he appeared to have enough customers to keep having to re-supply.
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