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This Wednesday, U.S. attorney Don Pashayan and D.E.A. agent Michael Brown visited ACP-Erie to speak to the student body about the risks and consequences of opioid addiction. Students gathered in the gym for a one-hour assembly focused on teaching students about the rising opioid epidemic in the United States.
To start off the presentation, Mr. Pashayan explained that opioids are drugs derived from opium poppies that are commonly used as prescription pain-killers. Opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine are legal when doctors prescribe them to relieve moderate to severe pain. However, there are many illegal opioids, including heroin, and fake pills containing fentanyl that are extremely addictive and life-threatening in high enough doses. People can easily become addicted to opioids, leading them to face painful withdrawal symptoms when they run out of opioids. In desperate times, people take to the streets in search of a fix, which is an illegal and dangerous means of obtaining drugs.
After teaching students what opioids are, Mr. Pashayan and Mr. Brown presented several local and national court cases to demonstrate that drug addiction can affect anyone. The presenters hoped to eliminate the “It can’t happen to me” perspective, since all it takes is one bad decision on one night to irrevocably change one’s life. They told the stories of Mac Miller, an American rapper who overdosed on fentanyl and alcohol, Lil Peep, another rapper that died from a fentanyl and Xanax overdose, and several local teenagers that died from opioid use. Their message was that from celebrities to local citizens of Chandler, opioid overdosing is a real problem that students must be aware of and actively choose to combat by saying “No” to illegal drug use.
Near the end of the presentation, students watched a video clip from Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict. They learned about how to recognize the behavioral and physical signs of a heroin addiction, including memory loss, constricted pupils, slower breathing, and a dry mouth. The video was a wake-up call to stay aware of loved ones and care enough to see when something is not quite right.
To wrap up the assembly, ACP-Erie’s social worker, Mrs. Swanson, encouraged students to reach out if they or someone they know is struggling with drug addiction. She emphasized the importance of getting support to recover from addiction and avoid overdosing. While it may be a difficult topic to talk about, this week’s presentation on opioid addiction helped students understand the possible risks of opioids and helped prepare them to avoid illegal drug use in the future.