Opiates have been used for centuries for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Although the pharmaceuticals have offered substantial benefits to humanity, they are also highly addictive, leading to the opioid epidemic we face today. Particularly impacted by the crisis are millennials.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most prominent addicts of prescription opioids in the U.S. are those aged 18 to 25. Furthermore, as detailed in the American Journal of Public Health, overdose rates for heroin have skyrocketed among young adults in recent years.
To help combat the concern, the group Students for Opioid Solutions has sprouted up across the U.S. on about 60 college campuses. Gerald Fraas, an economics and political sciences major at the University of Alabama, founded the nonprofit organization following the death of his friend from a painkiller overdose just six months prior.
On the organization’s Facebook page, they explain their cause:
For far too long state legislators have promised comprehensive action on the opioid issue with little to no results. Our friends and classmates are dying from overdoses. This is a grassroots movement to solve the issue.
The organization aims to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of addiction, which will perhaps enable the identification of those in need and help save lives. Fraas also proposed that colleges become more transparent in reporting overdoses, so parents and students are made aware of the intensity of the matter at the particular school.
As a pupil at the University of Central Florida, I have often seen colleagues comparable to zombies, blatantly high on some substance. By holding colleges accountable for reporting the prevalence of drug abuse at their campuses, they will be forced to either handle the situation or lose prestige and, ultimately, business.
Fraas also proposed a Good Samaritan clause to protect students from legal harm after reporting or giving aid to someone experiencing an overdose. Also, he wishes for universities to require campus law enforcement and resident assistants to carry naloxone, an emergency narcotic typically given via auto-injection to the upper thigh to resuscitate such patients.
Steps for carrying naloxone have already been implemented at many police departments across America and have proven highly successful, reviving more than 26,500 lives, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Taking the Issue into Our Own Hands
The necessity for a grassroots movement is vital and has proven impactful. Scientific journals have brought awareness to the crisis, leading to doctors decreasingly prescribing painkillers to patients, unless necessary. Instead, many have taken to suggesting alternatives, such as biofeedback training and exercise therapy.
What may also contribute to the decrease in prescription painkillers is last year’s huge health care crackdown by the Trump Administration, during which 115 physicians lost their licenses for prescribing opioids to addicts for financial gain, as reported by Liberty Nation. Many may now fear that their actions will not go without consequences.
Medical schools are also educating our physicians in training about the epidemic. According to UCF Today, a newspaper from the University of Central Florida, information on prescription opioids are now part of a medical student’s four- year curriculum at many colleges across the U.S.
Fraas’ organization is a worthy and necessary cause, expressing the frustrations many Americans hold on the state of addiction in the U.S. Although the epidemic is likely to be faced for years to come, perhaps through passion and devotion, recovery will gradually occur for our nation’s young adults.