Count it! Lock it! Drop it! That’s what ETSU’s Counseling Center is hoping to share with students in a new campaign.
The Count it! Lock it! Drop it! campaign began Nov. 7 and aims to make students aware of how to prevent prescription drug abuse by keeping track of how many pills they have, keeping them in secure locations and disposing of unused pills properly.
“I think students don’t believe that it will happen—that their friends will steal their meds,” Mina McVeigh said. “Sometimes it’s not their friends. It’s friends of friends, or just your door is open because you went to the bathroom and someone wanders in.”
McVeigh is Assistant Director for General Outreach with the ETSU Counseling Center. The Counseling Center is partnering with the ETSU Drug Abuse Research Program (DIDARP) for this campaign.
Program Director for DIDARP Angela Hagaman said the program is for people who are not abusing drugs but may also not be taking precautions to secure their prescription medications.
“If you secure your medication, you’re reducing the amount of stuff that’s accessible,” said Hagaman.
Of prescription drug users, 67.6 percent say they obtained the drugs from relatives and friends, according to a 2013 national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Those drugs could be given by or stolen from the relative or friend.
Medications that are most often abused are pain killers, stimulants, muscle relaxers, sleep aids, anxiety medications and opioids.
Hagaman also noted that even if a person is not using the drug themselves, it may have street value and could be sold.
McVeigh said a lot of the project is just to make students aware that, as adults, they need to take care of their medication responsibly.
“It’s important that even if they’re not using, that they know this is happening,” she said. “That’s what an awareness campaign is.”
Count it! refers to knowing the number of pills in a prescription bottle so people know if any are taken. Lock it! means taking steps to securely store medications in places like lock boxes. Drop it! accounts for proper disposal of medications. For example, medication may be dropped off at the Johnson City Police Department where there is a secure disposal box, but medications should not be flushed down toilets.
Any students who want to get a lock box for their medications can contact the Counseling Center. They are available for $13, but students may be eligible for a free lock box if money is an issue. Insight Alliance of Washington County supplies the lock boxes to ETSU as part of a grant. They may also be purchased on Amazon for different models.
The campaign has already seen behavior change in its first week. A student asked for a lock box because their pill bottle kept being moved while they were out of their room. Although they were unsure if any pills had been taken, they thought it would be better to lock them up.
“We have no idea how many lock box requests we’re going to get,” McVeigh said. “The fact that we got one means it’s a success.”
The Count it! Lock it! Drop it! campaign includes posters around campus, table tents in the Marketplace, advertisements on campus TVs and social media campaigns. The Residence Hall Association is working to have RAs use weekly hall meetings to talk to residents about how to count, store and dispose of drugs. Door hangers were also placed on rooms of most residence halls.
In the spring, the campaign will host an overdose dramatization on campus to show students what to do if someone overdoses on drugs.
A survey will be sent to about 5,000 undergraduate students in a few weeks to get an idea of how many students were reached by the campaign and how many changed their prescription storage behaviors. A $10 Starbucks gift card will be offered as an incentive to fill out the survey.
If the survey shows positive changes and awareness, the campaign will continue in future semesters and they will use it to help implement similar programs on other campuses. If not, they said they will go back to the drawing board to understand how to reach students.
The campaign is funded by a grant of $2,500 from Cardinal Health.
Count it! Lock it! Drop it! community programs have been implemented in communities, pharmacies and with law enforcement agencies across Tennessee to encourage people to secure their medications.
According to the program’s website, the effort began in Coffee County, Tennessee, and is now active in 63 counties across the state, including Washington County. It aims to make prescription storage and disposal a common practice to prevent drug abuse.
“That’s why we want to normalize this practice,” Hagaman said. “Just like you recycle, it’s just how you handle your medications when you don’t use them.
For more information about Count it! Lock it! Drop it!, visit http://www.etsu.edu/students/counseling/aod/countitlockitdropit.php.