Opioids: The unrecognized drug

Is over-the-counter drug abuse overshadowed by illegal street drugs? (This story received an Honorable Mention Award, Kettle Moraine Press Association, October 2018)

Opioids: The unrecognized drug

Jeff Larson and Cj Larson

“No part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural — has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids.”

– President Trump in a speech on October 26th.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. Many of these addictions can be attributed to an abuse of prescription drugs. The number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, according the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)’s records.

These drugs have made their way into the Rockford area. Last year alone there were 96 total overdoses in Winnebago County, and in 2013 there were 124. This time last year, heroin and cocaine accounted for 87% of overdose fatalities in Winnebago County (Rockford Register Star). This is an astronomical number compared to those of years past. Recently, new drugs have invaded the area. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is more than twice as powerful as heroin, and is extremely dangerous due to its potency, as well as its addictive quality.

According to drugabuse.gov, high school students can become victims to these substances. Drugs like Adderall were used by 6.8% of 12th graders over the past year; Cough Syrup, which may contain codeine, was used by 4.1%; and OxyContin; 3.3%. Opioid pain relievers and over the counter drugs kill 3.7 out of 100,000 people in the 15-24 age group annually. Illegal drugs account for only 2.2%, a much smaller figure by comparison.

“For a while, a family member of mine has been struggling with their addiction,” said a Guilford student who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s been putting a lot of stress on my family.”

The opioid crisis has hit the Midwest especially hard. According to Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz, as reported by WREX, 108 overdose deaths have occurred as of November 16th. If the current trend continues 114 people will die of overdose in 2017, an 18.75% increase from 96 in 2016. Because of the prevalence of these substances, numerous Guilford students have been affected.

“Any advice I would give to students, would be to stay off drugs like fentanyl,” said Rockford Police Officer Robert Washo. “I’ve seen the result of addiction cases and the end result is never good.”

Students negatively affected are advised to seek out assistance from authority sources, including counselors, teachers, administrators, or outside avenues such as Rosecrance Health Network, or Crusader Clinic. Often these resources can point them towards student support groups or other forms of assistance.