Eastern Joins Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative

Written by Casey Collins

In an effort to promote awareness of substance use, Eastern Connecticut State University has been granted $10,000 by the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative, a project supported by the Wheeler Clinic and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The grant supports a number of awareness, education and prevention efforts at Eastern around the topic of substance use on college campuses.  In addition to marketing to targeted audiences, the University will be sponsoring public awareness events and speakers throughout the spring semester. In addition, as a member of the Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative, Eastern will be inviting its students to participate in a voluntary survey in January to further understand the attitudes and perceptions of substance use on campus.

The survey is being administered by the Core Institute, the nation’s largest database on college students’ drinking and substance use. It has been found that students’ perceptions of drug use and the reality of campus drug use are often far apart. The survey aims to bridge this knowledge gap by understanding trends among students, identifying influential factors and determining areas that need to be monitored or improved.

One of the project’s education and awareness efforts concerns the proper disposal of medicines and legally obtained drugs. Far too often, prescription drugs are handled in an improper manner, starting with how they are prescribed. Dr. Daniel Tobin, assistant professor of medicine at Yale University, says that 80 percent of doctors prescribing opioids are primary care physicians, not pain specialists. They may not receive the same comprehensive training that pain specialists receive and may be less qualified to accurately diagnose and responsibly distribute opioid prescriptions. This contributes to an issue we face as a nation today — the improper disposal of unused medicines.

To many people, a natural solution to this issue is simply to dispose unused medications by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage. This approach only worsens the situation. Drugs that are flushed down the toilet enter our water stream and can contaminate water or harm aquatic wildlife. The same goes for garbage as well, as pills that make it to landfills can make their way into the soil and contaminate the ground.

To address this issue, Eastern has invested in a special new preventive technology called Deterra. Known as a drug deactivation system, Deterra consists of a charcoal lined bag that seals off and deactivates the active compounds inside a capsule, therefore rendering them completely safe to dispose of. The school has made Deterra widely available to students who need to dispose unused medicines.

Eastern’s participation in the Healthy Campus Initiative program comes at a time where our nation faces a serious drug abuse issue. As of Oct. 26, 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “national emergency.” While Eastern has never experienced an opioid overdose on its campus, the state of Connecticut finds itself at risk. The Wall Street Journal estimates that more than 1,000 people in Connecticut perished from an opioid-related overdose in 2017. By promoting the safe storage and disposal of drugs, along with other prevention initiatives, Eastern is building a foundation of knowledge to reduce the risk of opioid use.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with these issues, contact the Opioid Treatment hotline at (800) 563-4086.