The Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic

Katie Stinson, Sophomore Staff Writer

Opioid addiction has grown tremendously in in recent years, causing a nationwide search to find effective treatment options and prevention programs. The epidemic affects all age groups, all social classes, and all races. It has crept into our neighborhoods, communities, schools and  even our own homes. How did this happen? What can be done to stop this national emergency? This is what you need to know about the opioid epidemic.

What Are Opioids?:  “Opioids” are what we call a wide range of drugs that block the opioid receptors in your body. This multitude of drugs ranges from heroin and fentanyl to prescription pills like oxycodone and morphine. Opioids are sometimes prescribed by doctors after things like sports injuries and dental procedures to provide pain relief. But, if patients don’t follow their doctor’s prescription exactly, they can quickly become dependent on the drug. Illegal forms of the drug, like heroin, are sold throughout the United States and are highly addictive.

How the Opioid Epidemic Started:  Beginning in the late 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies began advertising their new opioid pills. After reassuring the public that these new drugs were essentially non-addictive pain-killers, doctors quickly began prescribing the pills to their patients. This led to opioids becoming very popular, yet misused. It soon became clear that opioids could be highly addictive and deadly. The number of opioid overdoses skyrocketed, leaving the medical community in a frantic search to find treatment options for those who were addicted. The number of users and the death total continued to steadily climb as opioids were made to be more addictive through additions of deadly substances, and then sold illegally. The crisis was approaching a state of emergency in the United States.

The Scope of Opioid Abuse:   In recent years, the number of Americans misusing or becoming addicted to opioids has increased.The amount of people dying from an opioid-related death has also spiked. A report released by the CDC states: “about 66% of the more than 63,000 overdose deaths in 2016 were caused by or involved with opioids.” The rate of heroin-related deaths has also rapidly increased due to its inexpensive price and highly addictive qualities. According to the 2016-2017 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “886,000 people used heroin, and it was the cause of 15,469 deaths.”

The Opioid Crisis in High Schools and Preventative Measures: The number of school students abusing opioids has been on the rise. Students who have parents or guardians who abuse opioids are at a higher risk for becoming addicted to or misusing the drug. Schools across America are providing students with programs to inform them of the dangers of drug addiction. Many people think that proper treatment and rehabilitation are vital to the recovery process for addicts, and Mrs. Toni Haidaris, a guidance counselor at Hubbard, also believes this to be true. When asked what the school would do in the case of a student abusing opioids, she responded by saying, “(The school) would contact the students parents, give referral for treatment, follow up with them…anything we could do to help the person get treatment. We would also provide support for their family.”

The opioid epidemic is also prevalent in the Ohio Valley. Addiction plagues hundreds of families in this area and has a huge impact on the community. Mr. Tim Headrick, an Integrated Science teacher here at Hubbard High School, voiced his concern about the abuse of opioids and  “recreational” type drugs in Ohio. “I’m more concerned about the gateway drugs…until society understands that the least of these open the door to the worst, we should all be in fear. All our homes and families could be affected by this.”

Needless to say, the opioid crisis has impacted the lives of millions and continues to be not only a problem in the U.S., but globally.  If you or anyone you know has an opioid addiction, you can get help by calling the Opioid Addiction Hotline at 1-877-275-6364 or text “4hope” to 741741.