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Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

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Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

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This article was written by Noozhawk Intern Tim Fucci as part of Day 11 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.


Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

Counselor says rising anxiety levels, emergence of prescription medications add to risks students face
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Name: Lacey Johnson

Location: UCSB

Role: Drug and alcohol counselor

For UCSB students seeking information and help with drugs, alcohol and addiction, Lacey Johnson is the go-to woman on campus. With a master’s degree specializing in family therapy, Johnson has served as a counselor with UCSB’s Alcohol & Drug Program for almost five years.

As drug and alcohol abuse has become an increasingly critical issue for students at UCSB, Johnson has played a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of the student community.

“I’ve seen a rise in anxiety and stress levels are at an all time high,” Johnson toldNoozhawk. “Students have a sense of expectation when they come to UCSB. They want to work hard and play hard, but they can’t do it all.”

And with this increase in anxiety and stress, Johnson said she has seen a rise in the use and mixture of powerful and dangerous substances among some students.

“I’ve heard some students say that it’s easier for them to get heroin or OxyContinout in Isla Vista than it is other substances,” said Johnson. “Acid has become popular again, too. It’s like the 1970s all over again. Students are very curious about it.”

With the prevalence of drug use in Isla Vista, Johnson and her colleagues provide necessary individual and group counseling for students in need. Along with campus-wide campaigns aimed at educating students about the warning signs of alcohol poisoning and drug overdose, the Alcohol & Drug Program offers counseling to students whose roommates, friends or family members may be suffering from substance abuse.

“Our approach philosophically is not an abstinence-only idea,” said Johnson. “We certainly don’t condone underage drinking or drug use, but we recognize that students will do that. We want to educate them. Students leave here appreciating the way the information is delivered, and many come back on their own.”

During her tenure with the UCSB program, Johnson has worked with students suffering from a wide range of addictions and dependencies.

“We have seen more and more students with different kinds of addictions outside of drugs and alcohol, like gambling, video games and Internet porn,” Johnson said. “Many times there are psychological issues that are driving their behavior. We help these students and refer them to other resources.”

Johnson cites her own college experience as the reason why she has chosen a career helping students with drugs, alcohol and addiction. As a member of the Greek community in college, Johnson witnessed alcohol and drug abuse firsthand, and had friends die from drug overdoses.

“For me it’s been a way for me to give back to those people,” she said.

But while a career helping students struggling with addiction has been incredibly rewarding, Johnson explained that it can bring an immense level of frustration, too.

“It’s taken years of practice to have appropriate boundaries and to realize I’m here to help students, but I can’t change things,” she said. “It’s a blessing and a curse to care so much. I have more success stories than the latter, but it can be very disappointing at times, and discouraging.

“But that’s the nature of working in the field of addiction. When someone is addicted to something, it’s a lifelong struggle.”

— Noozhawk intern Tim Fucci can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect withNoozhawk on Facebook.