Katherine Anderson // The Daily Nexus)

Katherine Anderson // The Daily Nexus

The use, misuse and abuse of prescriptions drugs and other pharmaceuticals get a lot of attention on college campuses. The UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program, a part of Student Health Service, offers educational and safety messaging regularly throughout the year, to help students and community members understand the risks and potential life-threatening consequences of improper use of prescription medications. Our Life of the Party peers create social media and print campaigns alerting students to the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol when partying. Student Health staff takes great care to provide students with all the necessary precautions about any prescription and OTC meds they may require. And yet, with all the information that is provided to students, we are overlooking a most profound risk posed by pharmaceuticals… proper and safe disposal.

Consider this:
Your friend has been taking antibiotics (or mood stabilizers, pain medications, or other prescription drugs) but didn’t finish them all. The leftovers were flushed down the toilet, and now they are part of the community’s water supply. You’ve been drinking, cooking, cleaning and bathing in these leftover drugs every day.

According to SB County’s Operation Medicine Cabinet program, wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove many of the constituents found in medications, so these materials pass untreated into our water system and our oceans Since we are in the midst of a historic drought, it is even more important that we protect our limited water supply. And throwing these unused, unwanted or expired medications into the trash is equally as damaging. Medications thrown into the trash are susceptible to retrieval by other individuals or pets, and when sent to the landfill can potentially enter the environment. These substances become a part of both the water and the soil. Plants, wildlife and fish ingest these substances and suffer significant consequences. Our environment suffers.

Santa Barbara County has a program in place for residents to safely dispose of unwanted medications. The Operation Medicine Cabinet pamphlets are available at the Student Health pharmacy and additional information about this program and other waste reduction resources can be found on the Public Works Department website, lessismore.org. The Sheriff’s office has teamed up with County Public Works to provide drop-boxes at substations throughout the county – Isla Vista Foot Patrol station at 6504 Trigo has a drop box right outside the front door and residents can drop off all types of unwanted medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

How can UCSB help save the environment from toxic damage?
UCSB students can, and need to make a different on our campus and in our community. Students in Northern California’s Alameda County have organized safe drug disposal effort called D.R.O.P. (Drug Return Outreach Program) to respond to the negative and toxic effects on the environment that can take place if drugs are not disposed of correctly.

UCSB students have been recognized as leaders in taking action to protect the environment and have always demonstrated great care and stewardship of our local resources. Take a look and see how you can make a difference in our campus and community environment. Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about safe disposal of medications and organized “take back” events in Isla Vista. And pass this information on to your friends, roommates and family members. Each one of us can make a difference.

Earth Day 2015 festivities: Earth Day was on Wednesday, April 22nd. Celebrations were held in both downtown Santa Barbara and Isla Vista, so there were plenty of opportunities to get involved and take action.

The Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival was held last Saturday and Sunday, April 18th and 19th at Alameda Park. Weekend events included local food and beverages, music and performances, an eco-marketplace, a “green” car show and plenty of resources for learning how to live more “green.”
This weekend, Gauchos are encouraged to check out the Isla Vista Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 25th (Alumni Weekend). The event will feature music, food, art, activities, vendors and giveaways: allgauchoreunion.com/events/detail/isla_vista_earth_day_festival
This article is part of the Daily Nexus regular column “THE DOC IS IN” coordinated by UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program staff.

This column was written by Jackie Kurta, Psy.D., MFT, Director of the UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program.