About 15 percent of students surveyed by the National College Health Assessment in fall 2015 reported that they used prescription medications without permission from a doctor, said the assistant director of the Pat Walker Health Center.
There were 853 students surveyed and 114 responded, said Zac Brown assistant director of communications for the health center.
Getting statistics about student prescription drug abuse is difficult because “it’s all a matter of reporting,” Brown said.
The doctors at Pat Walker are mindful about the possible effects of prescribing medicine to students, Brown said.
“The primary care physicians on campus are very judicial about prescribing medications because of the potential risk of misuse,” he said.
UAPD installed a prescription medicine dropbox located in the lobby of the Administrative Services Building on Razorback Road to curb that risk.
The dropbox is meant to serve as a place where students or people in the area can deposit their unused prescription medications, so that they’re not “left in medicine cabinets, or just left laying around,” UAPD Capt. Gary Crain said.
“These days, there is a problem, especially with young people, using these medicines to try to stay awake, or get high,” Crain said.
There were 1,741 young adults, between ages 18 and 25, who died from prescription drug overdose in 2014, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.
More than 28,000 people died as a result of prescription opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or codeine, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.
“When it comes to disposal, we’d like to keep unused medications out of the landfills, and we don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands and be misused,” Crain said.
The dropbox has been on campus for about a year. It has been here since around last April, maybe longer than that, Crain said.
The dropbox is one of several in the area. They were paid for by a grant from the Prevention Resource Center in Springdale.
“There was no cost to the UAPD,” Crain said. “I’m not sure of a specific cost value, since the grant covered all of it.”
The UAPD checks the dropbox on Mondays and Thursdays, and anything that is in there is then incinerated.
Crain explained that twice a year, there is a statewide, prescription take-back campaign, in which “to show the success of the program, they will collect everything from all around, and weigh it.”
However, the UAPD does not do that.
“What is being collected is waste; leftover medications that need to be destroyed. We don’t have a reason to weigh or tally,” Crain said.
Junior Anna Cone said she thinks the dropbox is useful.
“It seems like on college campuses there is an issue with prescription medications getting in the hands of the wrong people,” Cone said.
Cone said she would make use of the medicine box, knowing now that there is one.
“I know that I have needs for prescription medicines, and if I had extra, I’m always conscious of keeping them hidden,” she said.
Sophomore Ryan Nolan said he thought the dropbox was not as useful.
“I do not see too many students actually having a problem with prescription drugs; it does not really affect us much,” he said.
Nolan said he thinks the dropbox is actually meant to address more of a community problem.
“I feel really indifferent to how this relatively recent policy affects us as students,” he said. “It’s nice to know that there is a place where the community can actually go and put these drugs where others can’t have access to it.”
Nolan said he does not see the long term impact the dropbox will have on college students.