USC to host Drug Take Back Day for community

Students, faculty and staff can find disposal bins at USC Pharmacy locations to dispose of prescription drugs, no questions asked.
(Daily Trojan file photo)

USC Pharmacies, in conjunction with Student Health, is hosting the University’s first independent Drug Take Back Day Thursday to encourage students, faculty and staff to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs.

The event will allow the community to dispose of these products at designated drug receptacles at each of the four USC Pharmacies locations. After the event ends, an authorized distributor will dispose of the collected medications.

The take back day is a step toward the pharmacy’s long-term goal of establishing permanent receptacles, allowing the USC community to dispose of unused medications throughout the year, said Raffi Svadjian, executive director of community pharmacies.

Svadjian said the take-back day will exercise a “no questions asked” policy and that all disposals will be anonymous.

“We wanted to create a safe place for our community of staff, faculty and students to return any unused drugs, any drugs that are expired,” Svadjian said. “We don’t look at the name of the medication, who returned it. We just ask that they place it into the container.”

Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman said planning for the event began earlier this semester by recommendation from the Jed Foundation, an organization dedicated to mental health education and suicide prevention that USC has partnered with.

“As part of Jed, we actually do a comprehensive inventory of the program services policies on campus,” Van Orman said. “But, as we’ve been working over the last couple of weeks in particular with concerns around opioids on campus, it became really critical to get it out this semester and to do it.”

Van Orman said hosting a take-back day allows those in the community to safely dispose of prescription drugs, including antibiotics, analgesics and anxiolytics, and keeps those medications from entering illegal trade. 

“In some cases, either [prescription medication users] might voluntarily give [their medication] to somebody or it could also just be taken from them. Then that becomes part of the illegal drug supply,” Van Orman said. “These programs really started as a way to provide people with safe and secure ways to drop off their used prescription drugs to make sure that drugs were not being — we use the term ‘diverted’ — from the people that they were prescribed for.”

USC’s Drug Take Back Day is a local implementation of a nationwide push for wider availability of safe drug disposal, an initiative spearheaded by the Diversion Control Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration when it established National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in 2010.

Outside of take-back days, opportunities to safely dispose of drugs are limited, and improper disposal can lead to contamination of water sources, Van Orman said. Take-back day programs provide not only the convenience of an on-campus disposal location but also valuable education, raising awareness about the problems posed by unused prescription drugs.

The take-back day is particularly relevant to the USC community in light of recent student deaths, at least one of which Van Orman said may be linked to opioid overdose.

The University has promoted drug safety in  schoolwide emails over the past month, warning against recreational drug use and encouraging those in need of help to seek it via resources, including the new Department of Psychiatry practice, which opened on the fifth floor of the Engemann Student Health Center last month.

“I want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to educate our students, especially about the real risks and dangers associated with substance abuse and drugs,” President Carol Folt told the Daily Trojan. “The mixing of opioids and prescription drugs with alcohol is an extremely dangerous combination.”