The Crisis of Opioids Continues

Written by Brooklyn Waller, SBHA Youth Advisory Council Member

The following reflects Brooklyn’s lived experiences, thoughts, and opinions. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic’s beginning, our world has been focused on COVID-19 effects and prevention, rightfully so. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, health care systems shifted focus from the rise of the opioid crisis. In some ways, the opioid crisis has worsened because of the isolation and independence that came from the weeks of staying inside.

As individuals began to stay inside, feelings of loneliness began to take over. To look for a way out of this season of loneliness, some individuals took to opioids as some specific opioids can lead to feelings of euphoria or happiness. According to the CDC, there was a 29.4% increase in opioid usage from 2019 to 2020.1 This statistic reveals what I previously stated that people were looking for a way to find a sense of happiness during the pandemic. There was also a lack of support for those previously struggling with opioid addiction. Zoom meetings, at that time, had not been widely available, so there were months that people went without support. The usage of opioids has only become worse with the pandemic.

Not only has the usage of opioids become a more significant issue during the pandemic, but it has also become a larger issue in schools across the nation. Thousands of teenagers have turned to opioids for the same reason, the search for euphoria. The problem with teenagers turning to opioids at such a young age is that they may not make it to 30 without help to escape the addiction. This is where school-based health centers (SBHCs) come in. SBHCs have the unique ability to be on campus, directly where some students are dealing with this issue of opioid misuse. An SBHC can intervene and offer students the help and guidance to cap their addiction. An SBHC also has the privacy aspect that could bring some students to share about their usage of opioids. In addition, to creating a safe space, SBHCs can offer Narcan to students who may experience an overdose. Having Narcan on school campuses should be important to school administration, as it might save a student’s life. I believe it can be crucial, life or death aid, to lead other students on how to use Narcan in this dire situation. It can be coupled with opioid prevention events at school or discussion of this public health crisis during health class. If opioid usage in schools is going to occur, we at least need to be prepared.

Opioids are killing individuals every day. To be specific, as of September 2021, CDC reports 99,543 individuals that died from opioid overdoses.2 I have an older brother facing opioid addiction, and I can personally say it is an illness that takes over people’s daily lives. The CDC states that, on average, 130 people die from an opioid overdose every day.2 Although that number may not be as high as the number of individuals dying from COVID-19 every day, that doesn’t mean that those 130 people are insignificant. We need to begin to look at opioid usage, as every day is a chance to tell someone that there are resources to help them. Every day is a day to save someone from losing their life to a ruthless addiction.