Coverage of the feces infested streets of San Francisco has recently received much public notice. Piles of old syringes are found cluttering the roads while infectious diseases surmount, as evidence of the nation’s devastating drug addiction problem.
Each day, about 115 Americans die from an opioid-related overdose. With the health crisis ravaging the nation, many are desperately seeking relief. As policymakers produce little progress on the matter, many Americans are pressuring for swift change to save the lives of thousands of citizens per year.
Liberty Nation recently interviewed a millennial who is diligently working to end the epidemic.
Gerald C. Fraas is the president of Students for Opioid Solutions (SOS), a group advocating “to push forward proactive harm reduction strategies to universities across the nation.” As previously reported by LN, the most prominent addicts of prescription opioids in the U.S. are those aged 18 to 25, and overdose rates for heroin have skyrocketed among young adults in recent years.
The matter is personal to Fraas, an economics and political sciences major at the University of Alabama. He co-founded SOS after the death of a close friend and schoolmate from a painkiller overdose just six months prior. Fraas explained that although his friend was a victim of his own actions and addiction, his life may have been saved if those around him at the time of death would have recognized the symptoms of overdose.
The organization also seeks to educate Americans about strategies for combating the epidemic. LN interviewed Fraas to gain insight into the impact of these drugs on millennials and how he is attempting to make a change in the complex political atmosphere surrounding the health crisis.
LN: While grieving the loss of your friend, you decided to do something to help prevent others from meeting an all too common fate. How successful has SOS become and what would you say to perhaps inspire other young adults who are hesitant about whether they could make a positive difference in society?
Fraas: SOS quickly found success within a community with interest in public policy. However, these citizens lacked resources or support to tackle the issue. We’ve thus-far spread to over 100 campuses in 36 states and stand to increase our impact in the coming months.
To an individual who is hesitant about if they can make a positive impact on society:
- You live in the freest and wealthiest country on the planet. If you can identify your concern with facts and provide a solution, you’ll be unstoppable. Nobody but yourself is stopping you.
- Focus on accomplishing the goal, rather than the size of the brand. With SOS, our benchmark for success is not the number of news articles in which we get mentioned, but instead to successfully have our policies implemented. Doing so will prevent lives from becoming impacted by the bureaucratic failure.
- Structuring a corporate entity, especially a 501(c)3, is incredibly simple in most states. The resources available for a free or reduced cost can majorly assist your organization to grow beyond your initial idea.
- Build a coalition of mutually beneficial relationships within your community, instead of viewing others as competitors.
LN: What are some strategies you would propose to end the opioid epidemic?
Fraas: One, combat the number of prescriptions via federal regulation and increased education to medical professionals on the sheer dangers of these medications. I’m personally not a fan of the excessive restraints to industries, but both the social and economic costs of a poorly made decision by a physician stand to impact or ruin the lives of others.
It could be contended that a doctor is responsible for a wrong prescription that results in addiction of the patient. Should a physician who negligently allowed hundreds of unneeded prescriptions to be renewed be held accountable?
Two, expand non-opioid medications available to patients to reduce the number of prescriptions.
Three, increase recovery resources and prioritize Medically Assisted Treatment [the combination of medications and behavioral therapy for relief] over cold-turkey or outright holistic approaches.
Four, enhance techniques for combating the trafficking of illicit opiates. Fentanyl [an opiate] is a horrifying drug and becoming more common within the public eye. Dealers who knowingly mislabel and sell this product ought to be held accountable to the fullest extent of their crime.
Five, increase naloxone distribution and usage, which has to date revived over 26,500 lives. A user is someone in need of help, and a dead man can’t be helped. The more naloxone in society, the more likely individuals are to survive an overdose and get the aid they need.
LN: As a college student, is addiction evident on your campus?
Frass: If you believe a group of 18-year-olds, left to their discretion with little supervision, are inclined to make poor choices, the epidemic is relevant. Nobody who has taken an opioid denies the pleasure that comes from usage. What causes problems is the pain from addiction, withdrawal, or death.
Much like tobacco or alcohol, opiate-based medications carry a staggering potential for sustained addictions that are often dismissed by college students until it’s too late to quit without adverse consequence. Give me a school where students have their full right to property, and I’ll show you a campus where an individual is quietly struggling with opiate addiction.
LN: Why do you believe state legislatures have been slow to action and display a lack of political will to resolve the current health crisis, as noted on the SOS website?
Frass: Historically, the government is slow to act on nearly any issue, and if they do, they often do so inefficiently. Since the opioid epidemic has previously been nothing but minor political fodder, the pressure to take legislative action has been minimal. With President Donald Trump making the crisis a priority, legislatures are suddenly feeling the pressure to act.
Unfortunately, government officials often ignore hard realities and daunting matters until the cost is too significant to disregard. In this instance, the price is the number of lives lost.
LN: What ideas for prevention, if any, do you feel may be beneficial in stopping addiction before it starts?
Frass: SOS is a strong proponent of alternative medications for pain relief. If a patient never has to touch an opioid, they aren’t going to get addicted. Medical regulation seems critical, as over-prescribing and lack of using “tapers” [withdrawal plans], has partly caused responsible patients to become addicted.
Concerning student addiction, combating the flow of illicit opiates and mishandling of prescription medications are critical.
LN: What can the everyday citizen do to contribute to the fight to end addiction?
Frass: If you know someone who is struggling, discuss it with them. More often than not, a problematic user knows there is an issue and wants to stop but does not feel the support to do so. Be a helping hand that tells them they aren’t “the scourge of society” but humans deserving of a second chance.
Get trained in handling Naloxone. The stuff is miraculous. A small canister in your purse or bag might be the difference between a mother seeing her child again.
Assist your local recovery groups. Donate to groups that advocate for solutions. Be outspoken to your representatives in Congress.
Fraas lastly encouraged readers to donate, become involved, or help petition with SOS, as they are frequently meeting with legislatures for progress. In fact, SOS has spurred numerous campuses across the U.S. to act on their proposed policies and enact change, as “one more life lost to opioids is one too many.”
What are the thoughts of our readers? What policy changes do you believe lawmakers should implement?