American Pharmacists Month

It’s well known that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know that it’s also American Pharmacists Month? This year, for the first time, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Governor Pat McCrory have declared October American Pharmacists Month in Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina.

Dr. Macary Marciniak and pharmacy students Evan Colmenares, Trang Leminh, and Jenny Levine with the proclamations from Mayor Kleinschidt and Governor McCrory.
Dr. Macary Marciniak and pharmacy students Evan Colmenares, Trang Leminh, and Jenny Levine with the proclamations from Mayor Kleinschmidt and Governor McCrory.

The profession of pharmacy has come a long way in the last few decades. Pharmacists aren’t just “pill pushers” sitting behind the counter at your local pharmacy and counting out pills. They are the medication experts of the health care team. Some of their newer roles include giving immunizations, rounding with doctors in hospitals, and in many states (including North Carolina), they can even prescribe medications.

Pharmacists ensure that your prescriptions are filled accurately and safely. They are also an excellent resource to help you take your medications correctly and get the maximum benefit from them. They can teach you how to use your new inhaler or nose spray correctly, and they are the best people to ask about which over the counter products would be the best and safest for you. Pharmacists have special training in many areas including the management of conditions like diabetes and asthma. Studies have shown that frequent conversations with pharmacists between regular doctor visits can help improve control of these conditions and improve quality of life.

Student pharmacists here at UNC are involved in many different projects providing education about medications and promoting healthy living across campus and throughout the community. On any given day at Campus Health, you can wander into the pharmacy and receive a flu shot from one of these student pharmacists. They organize health screenings at local pharmacies to improve awareness of conditions like high blood pressure. They even put together after-school events to talk to kids about diabetes and promote healthy living starting at a young age.

The pharmacists here at Campus Health each have special areas of training and interests. They can help you choose the right form of contraception and answer any questions you may have about it. They can even prescribe emergency contraception for those “uh oh” moments. They work closely with students with diabetes to help them make the transition to life in college. If you’re studying abroad, they can help make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you leave, including making vaccination recommendations and providing preventative medications for travel-related illnesses such as malaria and altitude illness.

Pharmacists strive every day to help people in their community lead healthier lives. Utilize them for more than just filling prescriptions, and you will surely see the benefits. October is American Pharmacist Month; now is the time to get to know your medicines and know your pharmacist.

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What’s Coffee with a Cop…?

Have a question about campus or local laws? Want the inside scoop on how to avoid getting a citation?

Come to Coffee with a Cop!

May 28, 2014

Women’s Hospital Conference Room 4

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

I attended Coffee with a Cop a few months ago with a list of questions from students and coffee with a copstaff around UNC’s policy on marijuana possession and probable cause for searching residence hall rooms. Not only did I get concrete answers to all my questions, I got some really helpful advice to pass along to students and FREE coffee and cookies…YES!


Take advantage of this opportunity to talk openly with law enforcement; you might be surprised at how willing they are to answer your questions, address your problems, and to offer advice for staying out of legal trouble. Don’t just take it from me; here’s what they say on the Coffee with a Cop website:

“In over 175 cities and towns in 36 states, Coffee with a Cop has done wonders for community trust, police legitimacy and partnership building.

One of the keys to Coffee with a Cop’s success is that it removes the physical barriers and crisis situations that routinely define interactions between law enforcement officials and community members. Instead it allows for relaxed, informal one-on-one interactions in a friendly atmosphere. This informal contact increases trust in police officers as individuals which is foundation to building partnerships and engaging in community problem solving.

So pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee….”

See ya’ll there!

Celebrations NOT Citations!

Nothing diminishes a celebratory occasion quite like a citation or an arrest, and yet drinking and drug related citations typically increase from now until New Year’s Day. So, I am passing along straightforward advice, based on common questions I get from students, on how to minimize your legal risk in a variety of situations.

Tips for…

Hosting a party

  1. Talk to your neighbors. Letting your neighbors know about your party—and perhaps house-party1 - Copyinviting them—opens the lines of communication and reduces the chance they will call in a noise complaint, which is the most common reason why police show up at your door.
  2. Guard the door. Know who is in your home and what they are doing. In the end, you are responsible for what happens at your residence, so if people you don’t know show up and start smoking marijuana or using other illegal drugs, you could be held responsible. Guarding the door and keeping it closed also protects you from officers coming in or seeing things that may lead to a search, a citation, or even an arrest.
  3. Don’t provide alcohol. If an underage person attends your party and says that you provided the alcohol, you could be charged with aiding and abetting underage consumption. If you provide alcohol to someone (regardless of age) and they leave your house and get in a car accident, you could also face social host liability charges. So, make it BYOB.
  4. Call 911 in an emergency. North Carolina’s Good Samaritan Law grants immunity from certain drug and alcohol possession charges for anyone who calls 911 in an overdose or medical emergency situation.

When the cops show up

  1. Be discreet. Keep the front door closed at all times. Once officers come to your residence, simply open the door and step outside then close the door behind you. If police come to your door and view what they believe to be suspicious or illegal activity, this could give them probable cause to search, issue citations, and even make arrests.
  2. Be polite. Ask, “How can I help you, officer?” If they are responding to a noise complaint, apologize for the noise and assure them that you will take action to get the noise level down. No matter what happens, always maintain a courteous attitude with the police.
  3. Do not consent to a search. Police must have a search warrant before they can search you (thanks to the Fourth Amendment). Without a warrant, police can conduct a search if

Gerald_G_Police_mana) you consent

b) they see or smell evidence of illegal activity like alcohol, marijuana use

c) they have an arrest warrant

d) there are exigent circumstances like an unconscious person in plain view or a loud crash coming from inside the house.

If the police ask to come into your home, simply respond “I do not consent to a search.” The same goes if they ask to search any of your belongings including your car. Most people voluntarily give up their Fourth Amendment rights by consenting to searches when an officer has no warrant. Even if an officer does have probable cause, you cannot be punished for saying that you do not consent, and the burden will be on the officer to prove probable cause in court. Never physically resist police if they enter your residence or search you; just repeat “I do not consent to a search.

4. Do not incriminate yourself. If an officer asks you a question and answering honestly may incriminate you, then don’t answer (this is your Fifth Amendment right).

“Have you been drinking?” “Are there underage people consuming alcohol at this party?” “What is in your bag? Marijuana? Alcohol?” “How did you buy this alcohol? Did you use a fake ID?”—all of these questions can be answered with “I have no comment.” Make sure that you remain courteous even when refusing to answer questions. You might say, “Officer, I know you are just doing your job, but I have no comment about that/I wish to remain silent.

5. Don’t run. When police show up at a residence for a noise complaint and they see people running away, this will heighten suspicion. Most noise complaints, if handled properly, will involve a short interaction and a warning from the responding officers, so don’t give them any reason to investigate further.

On the road…

  1. Heed all the above advice. Being discreet in this situation means being aware of anything that may be in plain view of an officer who has pulled you over. If an officer asks you to step out of the car, then exit and lock and close your car door behind you. Do not consent to searches of your car or personal belongings or incriminate yourself. And, of course, be polite throughout the interaction no matter what happens.
  2. Show ID. As the driver, you are required to show your driver’s license to an officer if you are pulled over. Never show a fake ID to an officer, even if you are facing an underage possession charge. As a passenger, you should also show your real ID if asked.
  3. Refuse sobriety tests, but not the breathalyzer. As the driver, you can legally refuse Leather_key_chainto take roadside sobriety tests without any consequences (walking a straight line, touching your nose, etc.), but refusing a breathalyzer will result in an automatic revocation of your driver’s license for 1 year, whether or not you are charged with DUI. As a passenger, you can refuse a breathalyzer (whether or not you are underage) without any consequences.
  4. Give yourself plenty of time to sober up. After a heavy night of drinking, you may be surprised at how long it takes to get back to a 0.00 BAC, the only acceptable level for under 21 drivers (0.08 for 21 and over). A 160 lb man who consumes 8 drinks will need 12 hours to get back to 0.00 (check out this chart for more info: Sleeping it off for a few hours before driving home may not be enough to avoid a DUI, especially for underage drinkers, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to sober up before you think about driving home. Better yet, have a designated driver or plan to take a cab to and from the party.
  5. Never give keys to an intoxicated driver. Even if they have only had a little. Letting a less drunk person drive you home can get you charged with aiding and abetting a DUI.

Get more info on how to handle police interactions, including videos, at To learn more about the law or for a free (that’s right, folks, I said FREE) legal consultation, visit Carolina Student Legal Services.

Your Guide to NC’s New Amnesty Law

Have you ever seen someone passed out drunk and thought about calling 911, but didn’t?

What stopped you?

Research suggests that fear of police involvement may be the main reason why people do lawnot seek help in an alcohol poisoning or drug overdose situation, so many states, including North Carolina, are taking legislative action. On April 4th 2013, the NC General Assembly passed the 911 Good Samaritan and Naloxone Access Law, effective immediately. The law is designed to prevent drug overdose deaths (including alcohol poisoning) by providing amnesty for people seeking help in the event of an overdose and by expanding access to naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose.

So what does this mean for YOU?

1. If you seek medical help on behalf of someone with alcohol poisoning, you will be exempt from certain underage alcohol possession charges.

The law grants immunity for charges from law enforcement, including campus safety. In other words, they cannot ticket you with underage possession or consumption of alcohol if you are you seeking medical attention on behalf of someone who may have alcohol poisoning.

To ensure you receive amnesty, you must do 2 things:

(1) Provide your name when calling 911

(2) Stay with the victim until help arrives.

***UNC is currently working on incorporating Medical Amnesty into campus alcohol policy so that students may also receive immunity from housing and conduct violations in medical emergencies***

911 Shield2. If you seek help on behalf of a drug overdose victim, you and the victim will be exempt from certain drug charges. When it comes to drug overdose, note that the law grants amnesty for a person seeking medical help on behalf of an overdose victim AND the overdose victim himself. Neither can be charged with:

(1)    Misdemeanor drug possession (e.g. marijuana)

(2)    Felony possession of less than one gram of heroin or one gram of cocaine

(3)    Possession of drug paraphernalia

In other words, you can call 911 or seek medical attention if you think a friend has overdosed, and the police cannot arrest you or the victim for any of the above, even if the drugs are in plain sight. If larger quantities of drugs are present or evidence of drug manufacturing, distribution, and/or selling, the law does not offer protection against those charges.

3. You can possess and administer naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin and more commonly-used prescription drugs like Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin. These drugs account for the majority of drug overdose deaths. Naloxone, which can be injected or administered via nasal spray, blocks opioids and reverses an overdose even if the person is already unconscious. Harm NCHRC-logoreduction organizations, law enforcement, and people using heroin or opioid prescription meds are now able to keep naloxone on hand as a safety measure. In other words, a friend or bystander can administer the drug without having to wait for help to arrive.

North Carolina is the 12th state to enact this type of legislation and many more states are following suit. Take home message: if you think someone has overdosed on drugs or alcohol, CALL 911!

Visit North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCRC) website for information on this law.

Redefining Drug Overdose

Everyone knows that only hardcore drug addicts overdose, right? Pills_Pic

Actually, this statement may be one of the most dangerous misconceptions driving the overdose epidemic in our country. In the United States, accidental overdose, which includes overdose due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs, has now overtaken motor vehicle crashes as the number one cause of injury death (i.e. non-disease-related death, like falling or homicide). Opioid pain relievers, like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone currently account for more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. Prescribed for acute or chronic pain, these drugs provide relief for thousands of people. But, as with any drug, they carry the potential for abuse and overdose. In order to fight the growing overdose epidemic, we must challenge misconceptions about overdose victims.

As a Health Educator at UNC Campus Health, I have worked with college students who have experienced accidental overdose due to a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs. Many are smart, studious high achievers. Often they are taking prescription medicines as prescribed, unaware of the toxic effects of mixing their drugs with alcohol. They wake up in the hospital shocked and confused: “How could I have been so near death from just one pill?” one student asked me after taking a prescribed opioid and drinking a few beers.

But accidental overdose is not limited to young people. In fact, the mean age of overdose victims is 39, suggesting that older adults are overdosing just as much as younger populations.  I experienced this firsthand when I worked on a research project investigating falls in older adults. I encountered seniors who had accidentally taken too much of their medicines and ended up in the hospital from an overdose. Many were reluctant to talk about their experience out of shame or embarrassment, not realizing that many drug overdoses happen in this way.

Another group at higher risk for overdose is veterans. Soldiers suffer disproportionately from chronic pain, PTSD, and mental illness, and the medicines prescribed for these illnesses place them at higher risk for an overdose. Opioid pain reliever prescriptions among soldiers have increased from 30,000 to 50,000 since the Iraq war began, so it is no wonder our troops suffer four times more overdose deaths than their civilian counterparts.

So what can be done? Opioid pain relievers contribute disproportionately to the problem. A drug called naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, but because of naloxone’s prescription drug status, it must be administered by a doctor or self-administered. One option currently under discussion is expanding the law to allow overdose bystanders (i.e. friends and family) to administer the drug. Another way to reduce overdose deaths is through a 911 Good Samaritan Law, which would grant amnesty from any drug or alcohol related charges to a person calling 911 on behalf of an overdose victim. For the UNC students I work with, this could be a lifesaver, since so many of them avoid calling 911 for fear of getting in trouble.

These two efforts are part of an overdose prevention bill currently underway in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). On February 5th, a policy summit will be held at the NCGA in Raleigh where these issues will be discussed more in depth. Drug overdose is not simply about addicts using illegal drugs (although this is an important population to consider). The prevalence of prescription drug use means that we must redefine what an overdose victim looks like: from the studious UNC student to the soldiers who risk their lives for our country.

It’s easy to feel powerless about these issues, especially from a policy standpoint. But, if you want to learn more about overdose or NC state politics, come to the FREE Policy Summit on February 5th in Raleigh. This is your chance to see politics in action and meet legislators and other folks who are working hard to prevent overdose in NC. The event is free, but you still need to register at

To Bonnaroo and Beyond: Festival Scene Safety

It’s that time of year again- people are buying their tickets, packing up their cars and road tripping to music festivals across the country. Whether you are headed to rock out at Bonnaroo, chill at The Hangout, or experience Burning Man, here’s a few tips to maximize your experience by staying safe (and hydrated) while you groove to the music.

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