Georgia College Front Page

Senior awarded grant to further research on college prescription drug use

Senior criminal justice major Scott York worked closely with Dr. Carrie Cook on his research on prescription drug use on campus. Senior Scott York didn’t always know his future held a career in criminal justice and years of state and federal work but after switching majors in his sophomore year, York knew his future was in law enforcement.

“I actually came to Georgia College thinking I wanted to be a doctor so I majored in chemistry,” said York. “I was drawn toward forensics, and after I took an intro to criminal justice course, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”  

The program led York to researching the correlations between students and the illegal use of prescription drugs. He recently received the Coverdell Chair Public Policy Research Scholar Program Award, which promotes policy relevant research to develop innovative, workable policy solution for major public problems.

“Scott’s research is certainly notable as it merges his career interest with his research ability,” said Dr. Carrie Cook, associate professor of criminal justice and York’s adviser. “Scott is an ambitious, intellectual student who has a natural ability to engage in research and conduct analyses.” 

York began working with Cook a year ago on data collection for a project of hers and is currently using some of that data to analyze the issue in his research. York plans to use the grant to pull in a focus group of students to get an idea of prescription drug use behavior on campus.

“There’s a huge data gap as far as prescription pills on college campuses goes and that’s for various reasons,” said York. “One large factor is that it’s just not given the same amount of weight as harder drugs like cocaine. With the focus groups I’m really trying to break that barrier from just looking at statistics to really understanding the culture.”

One of York’s hypotheses was because of their massive network, Greek life would have a larger number of members who abuse prescription pills. In his research, he found a 17.5 percent increase in those who reported using within the last 30 days, which he says was significant.

“This increase is significant because we see an observed jump from only 8.4 percent of non-Greeks reporting use within the past 30 days, to 25.9 percent of students with Greek affiliations reporting use,” said York. “That’s a massive difference considering that of the 185 Greek Life respondents, 48 reported very recent use. That’s in contrast to the 33 who reported use from the 398 non-Greek respondents surveyed.”

For York the research, which he’s presented at the Criminal Justice Association of Georgia and at the Georgia College Student Research Conference, is more than just a college project— this is useful knowledge for his future career in the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“I want to eventually work for the DEA, which got me into this research in the beginning,” said York. “I graduate at the end of this semester, so I’ll be getting my feet wet doing some state or local government agency work—then working my way up to the federal level.”

Cook says this research is a great starting point for York’s career, but also showcases the level of student research coming out of the program.

“The local impact of Scott’s research is quite significant,” said Cook. “Understanding the specific culture of illegal use of prescription drugs at Georgia College is essential to start a conversation about how to address its causes and consequences for our students.”

York says a career in law enforcement, although not what he planned, comes back to his belief of giving back to others.

“I’ve always been the type of person who wants to do good for others,” said York. “Now I’m able to do that in the future with law enforcement and while it’s not what I had planned, it’s what I’m most passionate about.”

For more information on the Coverdell Chair Public Policy Student Research Program, visit gcsu.edu/gov/scholarprogram.htm.

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