Students can now buy shot glasses shaped like syringes and prescription bottles at the Urban Outfitters store in Southpoint Mall in Durham.
The description of the syringe-shaped glasses on the Urban Outfitters website reads, “Prescribe yourself a small dose of pleasure. Syringe-shaped shot container — press down top to squirt out liquid. Fill it up with booze and let the healing begin!”
The company’s new product line has sparked concern among medical experts and anti-drug advocates, who say selling such products to teens and young adults poses a real danger — especially given the prevalence of alcohol and drugs on college campuses.
Dr. Chris Ringwalt, a research scientist at the UNC Injury Prevention and Research Center, said he found the idea of medically themed shot glasses appalling.
“Anything that trivializes either alcohol or prescription drugs — particularly addictive prescription drugs — and makes either sound like a game is very destructive,” Ringwalt said.
He added that the misuse of alcohol and prescription drugs are serious nationwide epidemics.
“To marry the two in this fashion — it’s just dreadful.”
Kelly Bossenbroek Fedoriw, an assistant professor in the UNC Department of Family Medicine, said Urban Outfitters’ reputation of pushing boundaries and challenging social norms isn’t necessarily bad.
But she said these products encourage underage consumers to use prescription drugs in combination with alcohol.
“Young people die from this,” she said. “It’s not just pushing the boundaries or having people question their belief systems.
In North Carolina, the abuse of prescription pain relievers by teens and young adults is a concern — although a survey done earlier this year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that the problem is worse in other states.
The survey found that four percent of people age 12 and older in North Carolina reported using prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes during that time — one of the lowest rates in the country.
Oregon and Colorado, with 6.37 percent and six percent, respectively, had the highest rates.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org has created a petition urging Urban Outfitters to discontinue the products.
Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said Drugfree.org’s efforts simply bring more attention to Urban Outfitters, ultimately giving them more business.
He added that the organization’s actions are rooted in hypocrisy because it focuses on marijuana instead of on drugs that are much more dangerous, he said.
“It’s ironic that they’re making such noise about this,” he said. “(It) shows that they’re self-serving.”
Still, Houston said the controversy might lead to constructive discussions not only about drugs, but also about alcohol use.
“And we haven’t really had an honest conversation about the fact that alcohol the most dangerous legal drug we have in this country,” he said.
UNC junior Lisa Toledo said she does not think Urban Outfitters’ products pose a large threat to students.
“I think it’s trying to promote it as something that’s cool. I don’t support it, but I don’t think it’s the main issue,” she said.
But Bossenbroek Fedoriw said many communities are working to combat substance abuse, and Urban Outfitters needs to take part.
“You would hope that business and retail outlets that sell to young kids would help that fight instead of working against it.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.