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North Carolina Student Killed By Overdose of Caffeine Pills


Caffeine pills proved fatal last week for Jason Allen, a community college student in North Carolina who swallowed almost 90 pills, the equivalent of about 250 cups of coffee.

While an overdose this severe is rare, many college students misuse caffeine pills because they consider them a harmless way to fight sleep. However, excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to serious health problems, according to Carol Walsh, a doctor and associate professor of pharmacology at Boston University.

"Caffeine pills are commonly available, so some people may not consider them to be very dangerous... Like any medication, though, an overdose is potentially fatal," Walsh said.

Most warning labels on caffeine pills say the drug stimulates the central nervous system and can cause restlessness, nervousness, gastrointestinal disturbances and other problems.

Not only do people risk heart problems if they overdose on caffeine pills, they also risk convulsions. When caffeine inhibits the adenosine reaction, the nervous system becomes overworked. This can lead to excessive neural activity and possibly seizures, Walsh said.

While it's easier to overdose on No-Doz or Vivran than coffee, excessive caffeine is unhealthy in any form, said Betsy Kenrick, a certified registered nurse at Boston Medical Center.

According to Kenrick, it is safe to consume the equivalent of three six-ounce cups of coffee daily. Depending on its strength, a cup of coffee contains between 110 and 150 milligrams of caffeine. A can of soda contains between 30 and 60 milligrams. One caffeine pill contains about 200 milligrams.

[The Daily Free Press, Nov. 3]

Wash U. student alleges assault

A female Washington University in St. Louis freshman reported that she was the victim of a sexual assault at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house early Saturday morning following the conclusion of a large party on fraternity row.

A member of the fraternity is the alleged perpetrator.

According to Missouri law, a sexual assault takes place when the perpetrator has sexual intercourse with a person knowing that he does not have that person's consent.

The alleged event occurred between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. and, according to WU Police Department Chief Bill Taylor, alcohol was involved.

"It's a tragic situation," said Jill Carnaghi, assistant vice chancellor for students and director of campus life. "Whatever happened has impacted, has affected the lives of two individuals."

As of yesterday evening, the victim had not yet decided if she will press charges.

"The decision is with the victim," Taylor said. Under the statute of limitations, she could have as long as a year to make the decision, Taylor added.

Sig Ep President Matt Mitro said, "It is our intention to support the member involved, but also the female involved." The fraternity would support the alleged perpetrator "to the extent he deserves support," Mitro said, through giving advice if applicable and being there for him through this traumatic event.

This incident comes at the end of a week of Greek-sponsored activities that included an Oct. 25 presentation from national experts on sexual assault. All members of the Greek community were required to attend. Mitro said that to the best of his knowledge the member attended the event.

[The Student Life, Nov. 5]

Michigan St. looks into Rohypnol

Facts are beginning to separate from rumors as MSU and greek officials investigate allegations involving Rohypnol.

Rohypnol, also known as "roofies," has been dubbed the "date-rape drug" because of its sedating effect and the fact that people who take it do not remember what they do under its influence.

Two MSU fraternities are conducting internal investigations for alleged use of the drug. One of the fraternities, Psi Upsilon, is also being investigated by its international headquarters.

East Lansing police Sgt. Lance Langdon said police are investigating two suspected cases of the drug's use, but nothing has been confirmed.

The greek investigations should be complete by the end of this week, and the unidentified second fraternity may be cleared, said Kelli Milliken, president of MSU's Panhellenic Council.

"With the other incident, it was all rumor-based information," Milliken said. "Greek Life took it upon itself to address this within the chapter, and we have concluded at this time that those rumors are false."

Mark A. Williams, executive director of Psi Upsilon's international office, said the office was investigating an allegation that a woman had been slipped some kind of drug at one of the fraternity's functions.

He said people inside and outside the fraternity are being questioned about the alleged incident. Williams said if the allegation is true and involved a fraternity member or members, they would be removed from the organization.

Milliken also said that the publicity surrounding the allegations has helped raise awareness about the dangers of date-rape drugs, if nothing else.

"You have to first take into account that these drugs have been around for awhile," she said. "It's not just a greek thing. We have the same issues as the rest of East Lansing, but we're trying to be candid with the press to raise awareness."

[The State News, Nov. 2]

Abortion subsidies spark protest

While national debate about a woman's right to choose--and who should foot the bill for her choice--has been raging, Harvard has quietly subsidized abortions for students for over a decade.

But after Daniel H. Choi informed students in an Oct. 30 opinion piece in The Crimson that they subsidize abortions performed by the University Health Services, anti-abortion students balked at the long-standing policy.

Each semester, UHS requires all students to pay a health service fee of $323.

According to UHS officials, Harvard pools this money into a budget, from which money is withdrawn to finance all students' medical treatment at UHS facilities. Within this budget, money is allotted to finance abortions for students seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

Although UHS's health plan policy is published in its guidebook, few students know that part of their required health service fee may eventually finance abortions.

And for years, according to UHS Director David S. Rosenthal, the policy has provoked few questions.

The guidebook, which officials say is distributed to students every year during registration, outlines UHS's policies and the distribution of the health service fee.

Rosenthal said in an interview that only "a few pennies" from each student's health service fee actually go towards abortions.

"The number of abortions among our students has thankfully gotten smaller and smaller each year," he says. "We are finally servicing a health literate population that listens and understands about safe sex, birth control, and condoms. This is a new era."

Rosenthal says UHS's current system of providing abortion subsidies has been in place since before his tenure began in 1989.

With a physician's referral, UHS provides $275 toward funding the procedure. According to the Feminist Health Center, an advocacy organization for women, first trimester abortions usually cost between $400 and $600, and second trimester abortions cost between $500 and $5,000. Students are expected to pay the difference between UHS's subsidy and the actual cost of the abortion, UHS officials say.

[Harvard Crimson, Nov. 5]

Cheating on rise at Texas-Austin

Unauthorized collaboration - preparing an assignment with another person's help and without an instructor's permission - has risen over the last 10 years at the University of Texas at Austin, officials said Monday.

Unauthorized collaboration, considered a type of cheating, was a factor in 25.5 percent of cases of academic dishonesty on campus last year and was involved in 32.3 percent of cases two years ago, said Kevin Price, assistant dean of Student Judicial Services.

Even with this year's drop, recent figures show an increase from five years ago, when unauthorized collaboration was involved in 16 percent of cases. Ten years ago, unauthorized collaboration was only a factor in 10 percent of cases of academic dishonesty.

"There has been an upward trend in unauthorized collaboration nationwide," Price said.

Because students have the opportunity to work together on assignments - such as homework or lab reports, which constitute a small percentage of their overall grade in a course - students justify getting help from others even when not allowed, Price said.

"Students often try to rationalize working with someone else," Price said.

Nang Ngo, co-chair of Students for Academic Integrity, said he has observed students collaborating on assignments without permission from instructors.

"One of the rationales people come up with, especially for homework, is that this doesn't really matter anyway," Ngo said.

Jessica Marshall, another co-chair of SFAI, said students often aren't clear about the University's cheating policy after orientation because it gets lost in the stacks of information they receive. She urged students to talk to individual professors to find out to what extent they permit group work on assignments.

[Daily Texan, Nov. 4]