Nicole Whalen: The Rx Factor Unites Students to Raise Awareness

The Rx Factor was started in 2011 by a group of students at The University of Tampa (UT) in order to address the growing concern of prescription drug abuse among college aged students. Spurred by personal experiences and a passion for educating their peers, this organization was started by students for students.

The goals of the organization are quite simple: The Rx Factor seeks to educate the UT student body on the multidimensional consequences of prescription drug misuse. Through community collaboration and peer-to-peer interactions, we aim to empower students at UT to change the course of this epidemic. By raising awareness, in addition to altering attitudes and behaviors, we hope to reduce the negative consequences that students may experience if currently engaging in prescription drug misuse.  What makes the organization so special is the fact that it is students helping to educate other students at the same level. There is no superiority or judgment; rather, there is an open dialogue about a real issue affecting our generation.

Over the semesters since the Rx Factor’s beginning, we had the opportunity to run quite a few successful campaigns and wellness initiatives on campus. We were able to reach students through social media and events on campus and by creating initiatives that were culturally relevant to the college student demographic. For example, one of our initiatives involved taking hip hop lyrics that glorified the usage of Molly and flipping them around so they then introduced students to the side effects of taking that drug. Some of our initiatives were more successful than others, but all were able to provide invaluable information to students.

I think the most extensive project we undertook, and the one we are probably most proud of to this day, is the documentary we made over the course of the 2012-2013 academic year. The idea of creating a documentary was one that we had pondered for quite some time, but we were unsure if we had the resources and time to pull it off. After a year of hard work and immense support from peers, faculty, and community members, we were able to make it happen, ultimately debuting it in April of 2013. The documentary was filmed, produced, and edited by two film majors; the interviews were conducted by the Rx Factor founder; and I was able to draw an animation we used in the film. All of the interviews came from faculty members at UT, community members, such as our county commissioner, Kevin Beckner, and a student in recovery. The soundtrack was even done by a local band called Dropin’ Pickup’, which is composed of a few University of South Florida students. [This documentary can be viewed below.]

One key element of our organization is the diversity of our members. Our successes came not from being the same, yet rather from being different. Some members were public health students, but we also had students majoring in marketing, photography, psychology, film, and art. These differences broadened our scope and outreach, allowing us to get in touch with our peers in a wide variety of ways. It also helped to open ourselves up to new ideas, discussions, and brainstorming that otherwise may have never happened or may have fallen flat had we all come to the table with the same backgrounds, interests, and passions.

As an alumni of UT, I am proud of all the work Rx Factor members and supporters have done to raise awareness about the prescription drug misuse epidemic affecting our generation. I am confident that current and future students will carry on this work and continue to make a change in their community and their nation.

Below is the documentary, which can be viewed in its entirety.