Student committee’s Prescription Drug Take Back Day combats nation-wide drug crisis

Jessica Regan

The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment reported that 52 people across the country die every day from overdosing on painkillers.

In response to the growing national drug crisis, the UT Wellness Network held a Prescription Drug Take Back Day yesterday, where students and the public could dispose of medications safely. The disposal is completely anonymous, and participants received pizza and a t-shirt after they discarded their pills. Medication will be transported by the UT Police Department to the Forty Acres Pharmacy to be discarded. 

“The whole macro level goal is to try to shift the culture about what you do with medication you no longer need,” said Matthew Olson, alcohol and other drug counseling program coordinator at UT. “Instead of keeping it in your cabinet or flushing it down the toilet, you can turn them in here.”

Students have started to take initiatives to prevent the issue of substance abuse through the formation of UT Wellness Network’s Committee on Substance Safety and Overdose Prevention, or COSSOP. The joint committee includes 10 organizations, colleges and student groups on campus.

“Being in pharmacy, I know that people are always looking for outlets to get rid of their old medications,” said pharmacy sophomore Lindsey Loera. “It’s great to be able to serve the
community in that way.”

One group involved in COSSOP is Operation Naloxone, or ON, a collaboration between students and faculty at the College of Pharmacy, College of Social Work and the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative. Naloxone is a medication which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. ON works to provide overdose prevention and response education to students, health professionals and the public.

Mandy Renfro, pharmacy sophomore and co-chair for the Texas Operation Naloxone Initiative, said she is grateful that her organization was involved in the event.

“When we had our first campus-wide Drug Take Back last semester, I encouraged pharmacy students to come and volunteer with me to help promote safe medication disposal on our campus,” Renfro said. “I am thankful we get to be a part of the event again this year.”

Olson said the COSSOP plans to continue to hold the event once a semester.

“We created this event to combat prescription pill misuse and unintentional overdose,” Olson said. “We need to acknowledge this (crisis) is going on and start taking proactive measures in case it starts to impact our area.”