Sunday, March 7, 2021

Students share thoughts on opiate addiction


“Opioid and heroin addiction affects Marylanders of all ages and demographics, and in particular our youth,” Gov Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, says in a new public service announcement he released with actor Michael Kelly. The number of heroin addicts has more than doubled nationwide in the last three years, ABC News reported.

From Maryland to Minnesota to Montana, heroin abuse is worse than ever, because dealers have made it stronger and cheaper to smoke. With just one hit, you can become hooked, leading Mr Hogan to declare a state of emergency, writes Ian Duncan in the Baltimore Sun.

Several thousand people die from heroin addiction in the US every year, and the governor’s executive order fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014 but temporarily postponed after taking office in order to pursue other legislative or executive initiatives, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The ABC News report shows a white, middle-class, 20-something woman in Minnesota, who found herself addicted to heroin after a single use of smoking a drug from a friend that she thought was a form of marijuana. These young people’s parents unwittingly feed their heroin habit, sending them money every week they think is for food.

The addiction is more pronounced among high school students in Maryland than it is on a national average, as Voxitatis previously reported about two years ago.

Error bars = 95% confidence interval. Source: CDC (YRBS)

Earlier this year, we noted the increased likelihood that high school athletes would progress from an addiction to prescription painkillers, many of which are opioids, the same class of drug as heroin, to the more dangerous heroin.

Students at CM Russell High School in Great Falls, Montana, recently had an all-school assembly at which they watched the video Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict, produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The slang phrase “chasing the dragon” is of Cantonese origin, according to Wikipedia, and refers to inhaling the vapor from a heated solution of morphine, heroin, oxycodone, opium, or ya ba (a pill containing caffeine and methamphetamine).

After watching the video, students told Isaiah Vang, an editor for The Rustler News, which is the student newspaper at the high school, what they thought about or learned from the video. He recorded a few reactions, and we reprint a few excerpts here. Each paragraph represents a different student’s response.

I’m saddened when I see people whose lives have been turned upside down due to their own or a family member’s addiction. I’m so thankful that I have not been impacted by this epidemic.

I learned that prescription drugs usually lead to heroin use. It was sad to see that the drug addiction was so strong that people relapsed so easily. The accounts given by family members showed how hard it was to watch a loved one go through the addiction.

The best thing I thought was that it really sent the message that overcoming addictions to opiates is not an easy battle. They really showed this by telling where everyone in the video was now. Seeing that about half or over half of them had relapsed after they made the video was really a powerful aspect.

Chasing the Dragon was an eye-opening documentary about the harsh reality of opioid addiction and abuse. I never knew that opioids were that addictive or accessible, and I think it’s interesting that prescription medication is my generation’s drug of preference. I’ve always known addiction to be a serious and life-affecting issue, but I never knew how painful and life-threatening addiction could be. Our panel of presenters gave fantastic answers to the questions our student body sent in. I hope that increasing awareness and education about these drugs will limit their use and make them far less of an epidemic.

The video was a very enlightening and heart wrenching experience. Seeing how prescription drugs can ruin your life is scary and why I’m so afraid of pain medication. I don’t want to end up hooked on opiates because of pain.

When watching the movie Chasing the Dragon, I was really intrigued and also scared. It’s scary to think that real people in the world are going through their own personal battles with drugs. Every story was different and unique but they all started the same way which was an exposure of drugs. It was a good wake up call to all of us and it helped us be more aware of the dangers of drug use.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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