New drug abuse prevention course

The Flock is a group on campus that works on raising awareness for addiction and recovery on campus (Photo by Luke Malanga '20).
Written by Alex Mark

St. Joe’s is taking steps to address the national opioid addiction crisis with an online prescription drug abuse prevention course meant to be completed by students.

Katie Bean, assistant director of the Office of Student Outreach and Support, sent an email to students inviting them to complete the course. Taking roughly half an hour to complete, the course highlights the risks of abusing and sharing prescription drugs, the symptoms of an overdose and warning signs of addiction.

“Since we sent it to all students, [it gets] such a wide net of people to be familiar with it at all,” Bean said. “Maybe someone’s never thought about that at all. Or maybe someone’s very, very familiar with it. So [it] definitely gets people talking.”

As noted in the Sept. 8 email, St. Joe’s is one of the first schools in the nation to offer this course to its students. According to Marci Berney, director of Student Outreach and Support, the course is currently in its testing phase.

For Student Outreach and Support, an important aspect of this course is the data collected from students. Upon first logging in, students are prompted to fill out a survey about their own habits concerning prescription drugs. The survey is completely anonymous, but the data it provides can help determine the extent of the prescription drug abuse issue within the university community, information which had previously not been tracked.

“We have a lot of data around alcohol,” Bean said. “I could tell you, from the past 10 years, our rates and how they’ve changed. But we haven’t collected data on [prescription drug abuse], so this will be our baseline moving forward.”

The Flock is a group on campus that works on raising awareness for addiction and recovery on campus (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

Data involving prescription drug abuse is especially elusive since a student’s illegal usage of medication is normally kept secret, unlike party drugs such as marijuana or alcohol.

Additionally, this new information will help determine the specific demographics of abuse and misuse within the student body, providing insight on how to tailor further education to students who need it most, Berney said.

The duties of Student Outreach and Support, in addition to providing wellness education to students, include helping students find the assistance they need for any kind of personal issues. If, for example, a student was seeking help at the office, Student Outreach and Support would suggest a referral to whichever on-or-off campus resource would best fit the specific student’s needs. Sometimes this treatment can come in the form of higher care outside of the university, in which case a student’s family or other means of support will be brought in to discuss available options.

“We want to make sure that students are as healthy as they can be, that they are safe, and that they are able to return to campus and be as successful as they can be,” Berney said.

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Alex Mark

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