Last month, 56-year-old drug dealer and Goleta resident Daniel Lee Harris was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and heroin for the purpose of sale. This arrest, which occurred two weeks after Halloween, serves as a reminder that although the party atmosphere may die down as the school year progresses, the drug and alcohol situation in Isla Vista is still present.
Juan Camarena, lieutenant of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, explained that while other forms of drug abuse are occuring in Isla Vista, the number one drug abused, as far as the department knows, is alcohol. Camarena explained that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage of people using specific types of drugs since alcohol and other drugs, like prescription pills, are commonly mixed.
“We don’t have the breakdown of exactly what is being used in combination with alcohol, marijuana, or prescription pills,” Camarena said.
While the I.V. Foot Patrol does not currently have information on the breakdown of these substances, they are hoping to learn more in order to strategically attack the problem. Camarena explained that in the next year he will be working to focus on finding the breakdown in drug abuse statistics by factors like what college the abusers primarily attend and what year in school they are in.
“Once I pinpoint the specific problem, then I want to be able to deal with the specific problem and see what I can do as a preventive measure to either educate, to get the community involved, or to figure out how can we reduce the issues that we have in I.V., whatever those issues are,” said Camarena.
Jackie Kurta, director of the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program, keeps track of some the commonly abused substances by students in Isla Vista by using information gathered from students.
Kurta explained that the more commonly abused drugs are alcohol and marijuana, however, there has also been an increase in abuse of substances like cocaine, prescription pills, psychedelics, and Ketamine. “One of our greatest concerns that we certainly hear about from students is that they are mixing substances,” Kurta said.
While any drug problem present in a community is serious, the problem present in I.V. is not an outlier to the current drug situation in the United States. “Often times people think either there is or is not an opiate problem in Isla Vista and whether or not it is unique to us, this is a problem that really is worldwide,” said Kurta.
Both the I.V. Foot Patrol and UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program said that stress is a common factor in what leads students down the path of abuse.
Camarena believes sometimes students turn to drugs to deal with the stress from school, exams, or being away from home for the first time. “Sometimes they want to forget that by consuming drugs, either alcohol, prescription drugs, or using other types of drugs to stay awake to study,” said Camarena.
I.V. Foot Patrol and UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program are hopeful that more arrests, like that of Harris, will occur soon in order to ensure that I.V. remains safe for all its residents. In the meantime they emphasize the importance of students reaching out for help when they need it.
UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program offers peer support groups like Life of the Party and Gauchos for Recovery in order to help students so that they can stay safe and educated whether they decide to be sober or not.
I.V. Foot Patrol also encourages students to reach out if they feel the stress of student life pulling them towards the path of drug abuse. “Any time [students] feel that way they should reach out to the school staff, talk to counselors, or they can come talk to me,” Camarena said.