Groups work to curb prescription drug abuse at ASU

LOSING A LITTLE BROTHER: Tyler Miesch spoke, Tuesday night, at a discussion on the Tempe campus trying to prevent deaths related to the misuse of prescription drugs. Miesch was the fraternity brother of Joey Rovero who died in 2009 from misuse of perscription drugs. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

On Dec. 18, 2009, ASU junior Joey Rovero was found dead after his central nervous system shut down — a result of a combination of alcohol and prescription medications.

The National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, known as NCAPDA, and ASU Wellness banded together Tuesday to try to prevent such deaths related to misuse and abuse of prescription drugs among college students.

A panel discussion geared toward students took place on the Tempe campus and was preceded by similar discourse among faculty, staff and parents in the afternoon.

Present at the discussion were Joey’s mother and one of his fraternity brothers, as well as the girlfriend of another ASU student who died from prescription drug abuse, and ASU medical officials.

“The primary thing I’ve learned is how unsafe these drugs are,” said April Rovero, Joey’s mother. “We have devastation throughout our country thanks to painkillers and other medications.”

Rovero is the founder of NCAPDA, an organization that promotes awareness education and legislative activity related to prescription drugs.

She said prescription drug use in the United States increased 477 percent between 1998 and 2008.

Aside from Rovero’s slideshow chronicling the life of her son, Joey Rovero’s big brother in their fraternity at ASU, Tyler Miesch, also reflected on Joey’s death.

“I’m the youngest of five brothers, and this was basically my only chance to have a little brother,” Miesch said. “It was the worst day of my life.”

The panelists used the event not only as an opportunity to reflect on the lives lost to prescription drugs, but also to help curb prescription drug abuse among ASU students.

Dr. Allan Markus, the director of ASU Health Services in Tempe, said contrary to popular belief, many people who become addicted to prescription medications are originally prescribed the drugs for legitimate reasons.

“Your doctor may start you on the medication for the right reason, and that starts the addiction,” he said. “I had to go to school for so many years to learn how to use these medications because they aren’t safe.”

To counteract prescription drug abuse through ASU’s Health Services, Markus said students receiving medication with potential for abuse must sign a contract to ensure students are not “doctor shopping,” or going to multiple doctors for the same prescription and acknowledge they will not receive early refills for medication, among other stipulations.

Katie Malone, a senior in the W. P. Carey School of Business, watched her boyfriend, Matthew Varon, who was also in the school, die earlier this year as a result of abusing prescription drugs.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your first pill or your last pill, it can do the same thing,” Malone said. “It’s like playing Russian roulette — the gun’s loaded, eventually one of you is going to die.”

Reach the reporter at mhendley@asu.edu