Next Tuesday, December 6, students and faculty can anonymously drop off any expired, unneeded or unwanted drugs at three locations across campus for USC’s fourth annual Drug Take Back Day.
Students can find drop off locations to leave their drugs in the Jefferson Parking Structure, the Health Science Campus’ Healthcare Center One as well as the campus’ pharmacy and the USC Verdugo Hills Professional Pharmacy, located at 1808 Verdugo Blvd., Suite 111.
The event, first held in 2019, was created by the university in response to an increase of drug-related student deaths. Annenberg Media previously found that three students died over the span of just 17 days from drug-related causes in fall 2019.
According to USC’s Chief Student Health Officer Sarah Van Orman, the program aims to provide students with a secure way to dispose of drugs, prescription or otherwise — no questions asked.
“It’s a good reminder as you’re getting ready to clean out your dorm room or apartment to make sure that you properly dispose of any drugs to make sure that they’re not entering the supply or getting into people’s hands for whom they’re not prescribed,” Van Orman said in a student health briefing Tuesday.
The organizers of the event hope anonymity will encourage students to discard any drugs they have because there is no threat of repercussions or disciplinary actions, as they believe the students’ health comes first.
This drug take back program is not the first of its kind. The Drug Enforcement Administration also sets two dates each year for nationwide “take back” days.
“The drug overdose epidemic in the United States is a clear and present public health, public safety and national security threat,” according to the DEA. “DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day reflects DEA’s commitment to Americans’ safety and health, encouraging the public to remove unneeded medications from their homes as a measure of preventing medication misuse and opioid addiction from ever starting.”
In addition to the programs provided by student health for students to return their drugs, there are also community-based organizations at USC working to help students struggling with drug-related issues.
A team of students founded Team Awareness Combating Overdose (TACO) in 2020 in light of the campus deaths due to overdoses in 2019. Since then, the organization has worked to provide students with research-backed graphics and statistics about drug use.
The team’s main goal is to maintain a neutral stance on drug use, focusing on educating students about drugs, the potential danger involved and how to use them safely.
TACO also provides a service that allows students to order fentanyl test strips for only one cent.
According to TACO, fentanyl is involved in about two of every three drug overdoses. It is often laced into other drugs, meaning people accidentally ingest it. Because just two milligrams of fentanyl is lethal, this often results in an overdose. TACO is creating awareness of this drug’s fatal repercussions as well as informing students about the realities of other mind-altering substances.
The test strips, available for just a penny on USC services like Duffl, allow people to quickly test their drugs to make sure that whatever they might take isn’t laced with fentanyl.
“According to the CDC, 107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022. A staggering 67 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” according to the DEA.
With initiatives like Drug Take Back Day and student-run organizations like TACO, the university hopes to combat overdoses and drug abuse within the campus community.
Find more information about Drug Take Back Day and the take back locations here.