Dialogue on drug and alcohol safety

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Nader Oweis, Chief, UC Santa Cruz Police; Sue Matthews, associate vice chancellor, CHES; Mary Knudtson, executive director, Cowell Student Health Center

The primary mission of the UC Santa Cruz Police Department is to protect the health and safety of the campus community, and our students in particular, from serious harm or death.

A very serious issue affecting the health and safety of our campus community is high-risk drug and/or alcohol use that can result in death. In a recent article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated a new record in 2014 when "more than 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses ... ," a 6.5 percent increase from 2013.

Last month, the Santa Cruz Coroner released 2015 statistics indicating that there were 58 drug-related deaths in Santa Cruz County. The overwhelming majority of the drug related deaths in Santa Cruz County, 69 percent, were males; the ages of the deceased ranged from 19 to 85 years old; 79 percent of these deaths were classified as accidental overdoses.

In 2015, our campus community experienced overdose deaths, which have had a tremendous impact by leaving behind heartbroken families and friends. We must all reflect on this unnecessary loss of life.vWith our partners at the Cowell Student Health Center, and Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES), we are compelled to provide this information relating to excessive alcohol and other drug use.

The Facts

The student overdoses occurred by mixing drugs and alcohol, including heroin, marijuana edibles and/or other substances. The deaths were the result of both the quantity of drugs and/or alcohol consumed.

A key factor in most overdose deaths is a delay in getting medical attention. Many students fear consequences for themselves and their friends and often do not call for medical aid in time. If a student calls for help for someone that appears to be sick or in distress from drug or alcohol use, student conduct officers strongly take such "Good Samaritan" efforts into account in adjudicating any violations of the Code of Conduct so as to not chill students from calling for help.

Additionally, many students believe their friends will be okay if they just "sleep it off." In reality, it is during this critical time that students often overdose in their own beds.

Reach out for help

The UC Santa Cruz Police Department and our partners want to support students in taking care of each other; want students to be educated and empowered to get help; want to address barriers to overdose prevention; and want students to know how and where to get on- and off-campus assistance if you or someone you care about needs help.

Call 911 without hesitation if you suspect someone experiencing alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose.


For students, a range of support services is available through the Cowell Student Health Center, including personal counseling through Counseling and Psychological Services, and Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP). SHOP is a safe and anonymous resource for information related to alcohol and other drug use—including overdose prevention.

SHOP's SLUG Party Plan is available online.

If you are interested in getting involved with educating our campus community to prevent overdoses please email shop@ucsc.edu.

As a campus community it is important for us to dialogue about alcohol and other drug safety issues and how we can all play a part in preventing overdose and the other negative effects of drinking and drug use.

In addition to tragic overdose deaths, our students are transported regularly to the hospital for drug and alcohol poisoning. The UC Santa Cruz Police Department cannot address this issue alone. We hope that you will become a partner and share in the responsibility of keeping our community safe.

Over the next few months, we will send out community notices addressing the wide scope of alcohol and other drug issues impacting our community. Please take the time to read these notices, as they will contain important information about keeping yourself and others safe.

These future notices will address:

  • What types of drugs are found in our community 
  • The signs and symptoms of an overdose 
  • What to do in the event of an overdose 
  • Sharing and the use of prescription drugs 
  • Marijuana edibles 
  • Introduce SHOP's new prevention campaign 'Party Like a Slug. What's your Party Plan?'