The University of Southern California is investigating whether several of the nine student deaths on its campus during the fall semester were caused by drug overdoses, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
In a Nov. 9 letter to the university, President Carol Folt attempted to stamp out rumors about how the nine students died, as many had falsely assumed a majority of the deaths were suicides. The L.A. Times confirmed that three of the students died by suicide and another student was struck and killed in a traffic accident, according to USC’s daily crime log.
The university has not officially released the causes of the other five deaths, but officials told the L.A. Times they are looking into the possibility that students used “tainted” narcotics that were more potent than advertised. Without mentioning the cause of the deaths, administrators warned students on Tuesday about the dangers of drug use, and opioids specifically.
“In addition to the direct effects of each substance, drugs shared for recreational use can be mixed with other substances to increase its effects, sometimes without the user’s knowledge,” said the letter signed by student affairs, health and public safety officials. “This practice is rising and is linked to overdose and death.”
From 1999 to 2016, people aged 15 to 24 were less likely than nearly every other age group to die from a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But from 2015 to 2016, overdose rates for 15- to 24-year-olds jumped by 28 percent, the CDC reported.