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Health Center hosts events for National Drug Facts Week

By Aimee Gonzales
On October 24, 2011

As Halloween weekend approaches, many students may be going out of town to celebrate at UC Santa Barbara, Chico State or San Francisco, while others may stay in the area and attend parties in Sonoma County.

No matter the party destination, the SSU Student Health Center warns students to be cautious during this holiday season.

Two high profile teenage deaths happened in Sonoma County in just the last few months, according to Doctor Georgia Schwartz, director of the Student Health Center. That is just one reason why Dr. Schwartz encourages students to take advantage of National Drug Facts Week.

From Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, students will have the opportunity to get the scoop on drugs from experts at the National Drug Institute of Drug Abuse. This informational week comes just in time for Halloween—a holiday in which drug and alcohol use increases among college students and the health risks are higher than normal.

"This is not a scare tactic message. It happens all too often," said Schwartz in an e-mail interview.

"National statistics show that over 1,800 college students between 18 and 24 die every year from alcohol related injuries; nearly 700,000 are assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol and or other drugs," she added.

According to Schwartz, 600,000 college students nationwide suffer acute injuries that resulted from their own high-risk alcohol and drug consumption, and there are over 97,000 victims of alcohol or other drug-related sexual assault.

The purpose of Nation Drug Facts Week is to provide college students with the proper information regarding the disposing of drugs, as well as about doeses and the combination of certain drugs with others, including alcohol.

Schwartz said that as smart as college students are, many act based on misconceptions about drugs and alcohol.

According to Schwartz, some assume that prescription drugs, even in misuse situations, must somehow be safer, which is not the case at all.

"First, too much of anything is not too good. There is a fine line between fatal overdose and survival," said Schwartz. "Drug-to-drug and substance-to-substance interactions are unpredictable and extremely dangerous."

Students believe that Halloween does raise a cause for concern regarding students' safety.

"I think that Halloween weekend is definitely something that motivates students to drink or party more than other weekends, and that women also take advantage of it to dress provocatively," said senior Samantha Berenson. "During Halloween, the combination of alcohol and scantily clad women results in ladies doing things that they might not normally do."

Today, it is not uncommon for college students to combine various stimulants and alcohol with the belief that it is safer to drink more.

According to Scwartz, however, it is just the opposite.

"There is a greater risk of sudden cardiac arrythmia when someone is under the effect of stimulants, be it some Adderall from a friend, crystal meth or energy drinks," said Schwartz.

"Using these in combination with alcohol clouds a person's perception of how much alcohol they have actually consumed, increasing the risk of alcohol toxicity and fatal drug overdose," she added.

Students are encouraged to stop by the Health Center for handouts about drugs safety, or to talk to the pharmacist, other doctors and nurses about any questions or concerns they have.

The main event taking place during National Drug Facts Week is the Safe Medicine Disposal Program. This event's aim is to teach students that keeping unused or outdated drugs around can contribute to drug misuse and abuse.

If drugs are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash, then they eventually end up in waterways and at landfills. This inevitably leads them to the food chain and in drinking water.

"Improper disposal dumps these drug chemicals into landfills and waterways, where it can damage wildlife, enter drinking water supplies and, ultimately, the food chain—all not a good thing due to the potential for drug related side effects, allergic reactions and chemical interactions," said Schwartz.

The Health Center advises students to put their unused prescription drugs and over the counter drugs in a plastic zip-lock bag and to drop them off in the Safe Medicine Disposal Program's green collection bin in the Student Health Center lobby any time during National Drug Facts Week, as well as the week after. 

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