SDSU sees very few drug problems

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

After a large meth bust in Mitchell and warnings that drugs are entering our rural state, some students might wonder if SDSU and Brookings are at any risk for drug infiltration.

However, while the danger is real, most students and some officials say things in Brookings are fairly quiet in the area of drugs. Few would have it any other way.

“I’d be inclined to say it’s more just alcohol abuse than illegal drugs,” student Ryan Siebrasse said.

Most students agreed with Siebrasse.

“It’s easier to find buyers (for alcohol) if you’re underage,” Sara Landau said.

The general impression students left was that alcohol is easier to get than drugs, so it has become the mood-alterer of choice for SDSU students. The relative peace and quiet of SDSU may give some hints as to why it has fewer drug problems when compared to other universities.

“We’re more secluded than other universities in the Midwest,” Jessica Eikmeier said.

While officials said that drug problems in Brookings are not as big as they could be, they still keep an eye out.

“I haven’t seen an increase or a decrease (since I came to campus in 1995). It’s there, but not like rampant abuse of it,” said UPD police chief Tim Heaton. “On campus, it’s mainly marijuana that we catch.”

Heaton said that typically his officers will pull over a student who is using marijuana or find marijuana during a room search. Sometimes, students complain when smelling it coming from a room or call in their roommate, but in most occasions like that, the students contact Residential Life.

Heaton agrees that SDSU is secluded enough to not have a major illegal drug problem.

“I think it’s because of the location. SDSU is in a more rural environment,” Heaton said. “We’re not on the big, big routes for the cities that (people) are transporting from.”

Heaton said that he is happy to take care of drug-related problems but that sometimes students feel more comfortable talking to Residential Life or Student Health. He also said that eventually, he deals with drug problems through the student judicial affairs committee.

“My area of expertise is strictly the law enforcement end of it. If (students) know somebody that’s using an illegal substance, they should report it to me and I’ll take care of it,” Heaton said.

Brookings county sheriff Martin Stanwick has worked in Brookings County for 25 years. He says that the only dramatic increase in drug arrests came when the department began using a drug-sniffing dog two years ago.

For example, in 1999, 51 people were arrested for marijuana possession. In 2000, 57 were arrested. In 2001, 63 arrests were made. In 2002, 68 arrests were made. In 2003, however, 103 arrests were made.

Similarly, in 1999, only one arrest was made of a person who ingested a substance to become intoxicated. In 2000, six were arrested. In 2001, the number climbed to 13 and stayed there in 2002. In 2003, however, 32 were arrested for that crime. Stanwick attributes the sudden jump in both cases to the drug dog.

“Since the use of the dog … two years ago, the number of arrests for the Brookings county sheriff’s office has increased,” Stanwick said. “I think that the officers are better trained now too. But are there more people using drugs? It’s hard to say.”

Stanwick said that eventually, whether through incarceration or a lengthy court process, all taxpayers pay for drug abuse. He urged people to talk to their friends who might have problems.

“Sometimes they need outside intervention … and I know SDSU has got a lot of good counselors that can help,” he said.

Arden Gerber counsels those with drug problems one day a week at SDSU. During the rest of the week, he works at the Keystone Treatment Center in Sioux Falls. He said most students he sees are referred to him by someone else, usually the judicial affairs committee or Residential Life.

Gerber said that addiction to anything can hurt a person’s academic career. In addition, he pointed out that addiction is a disease which needs to be treated. Like any disease, addiction can be overcome with proper treatment.

“An addiction is a medical condition and properly treated, (an addicted person) should be able to do whatever they want to do,” Gerber said.

He urged those who thought their friends had drug problems to speak with their friends and possibly refer them to Residential Life or Student Health.