A little over a week ago, I was having a seemingly futile conversation with one of my friends about fantasy basketball. Out of nowhere he responded by saying, “I have bad news.” I knew he wasn’t telling me that Shaquille O’Neal was out until December ? my chest felt as tight as a knot, and sweat formed upon my hands. “Did someone die?” I asked. “Jeff Pagadala,” he replied.

Jeff Pagadala, the funniest, most energetic, and unique person I’ve ever met had passed away at age 20, from a cocaine overdose. I was in total shock. How could someone so young and vibrant, be silenced forever?

This came a few weeks after UR Security disclosed several disturbing findings in its annual “Think Safe” report. In 1999, security reported 10 drug abuse violations. Two years later, the number of drug violations increased more than ninefold to 93. You don’t have to be a physics major to realize that drugs are rampant on this campus.

Several weeks ago CT columnist Michael He wrote an editorial condemning marijuana use. He was bombarded with angry responses by students who felt that his comments regarding those who smoke weed were ignorant and unfair. When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, there are salient points on both sides of the argument. But that is a different debate, for a different day.

I realize that college is a time for experimentation. It is referred to by many, as the “best four years of your life.” I, for one, am not as innocent as a Boy Scout. I have done my fair share of partying. However, after seeing what happened to Jeff, I now know that any high you receive from a substance is ephemeral and their addictive potential can be extremely damaging. Should the best four years of your life be your last?

I am trying to remember all the hilarious moments that Jeff created, not the tragic ones. There was the time he took a girl who knew Bengali to an Indian Restaurant, and didn’t let her speak one word of English as he tried to convince the waiters that she was his mail order bride. He even persuaded me to write his college essay, with several hundred dollar bills and “the choice of any girl I wanted.” That remark illustrated his popularity.

If any good comes from Jeff’s death, it is that he can save lives by showing people that the path that he took was dangerous and cost him his life. There is always time for someone struggling with drug use to turn their life around, as support is endless.

Anytime you choose to use drugs to enhance your college experience, think of Jeff, think of his family, and think of the sadness he has created for them. Then think if Jeff’s parents were yours. Would using drugs really be worth it?



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Each year at URMC, a new cohort of unsuspecting pediatrics residents get a crash course. “There are no mistakes in Zumba,” Gellin says.

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