The morning after my high school graduation, I expected to run down the stairs of my house and be greeted with hugs from family, congratulations, and a hearty breakfast. What I received instead was entirely different.
My mom pulled me aside and told me that my neighbor and childhood friend had been found unresponsive in his basement that morning. Through the tears welling up in my eyes, I could see the concern on my mother’s face, and she assured me that he would be okay. But just moments later, my brother entered the room crying and told us that my friend had died.
Due to the unexpected nature of my friend’s death, my brother and I piled onto the floor and sobbed for what felt like hours. Underneath the devastation was a sharp pain, an ache to know the facts of his death that were still unknown. At the end of that exhausting day, my family and I finally found out the cause of death: a heroin overdose.
These were the kinds of things that happened in movies or on TV, not in a small town like mine. I didn’t think these things really happened anywhere, to anyone. But they do. Drug overdoses, especially those induced by opioids, have been drastically increasing in recent years. According to the Massachusetts government, the number of opioid overdose related deaths in Boston alone has risen from 64 to 141 people between 2012 and 2015. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that, according to the Health Policy Commission, there were 57,000 opioid related hospital visits in Massachusetts during 2014 alone. Or, in other words, 156 individuals were hospitalized each day for opioid related drug overdoses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 105 people in the United States die every day from a drug overdose. In one year, there are more deaths attributed to drug abuse than there are attributed to falling, gun related incidents, or traffic accidents. I could have never imagined that my friend would have been one of them.
As if drugs alone were not dangerous enough, another risk has emerged in the modern era of drug use: lacing. Some marijuana can be laced with cocaine, and there have been several fatal instances of opioids being laced with a deadly substance called fentanyl. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is "a powerful synthetic opioid... that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent." Since fentanyl was introduced to more common drugs (such as marijuana), the number of opioid related deaths have skyrocketed.
Why are we losing so many lives—often young ones—to drugs? A majority of elementary schools across the country educate their students through the DARE program, high school health teachers explain the physical risks of experimenting with drugs, and our parents constantly warn us about the damage drugs can do. Why isn’t all this enough?
College students make up the largest group of drug abusers nationwide, a fact which is at least in part due to the fact that people ages 18 to 24 are at a heightened risk of addiction (National Addiction Center). Stress, course load, curiosity, and peer pressure drive the already impressionable college student to experiment or resort to drugs. The obvious damage of these decisions to their physical health also detrimentally impact their social, professional, athletic, and academic life.
During the course of the year, BC students are assigned mandatory online courses and attend floor meetings for discussions about alcohol abuse and sexual assault—two very important and pressing matters on campus. However, I can't help but wonder, why isn't there a course, seminar, or more campus events in general regarding the dangers of drugs? If this is the time when people are not only most heavily exposed, but most vulnerable to drugs, students should be well equipped with knowledge of what they are dealing with, and the effects these substances have.
Proper education is essential to being safe.
Drug abuse and experimentation is not restricted to a certain demographic, social status, or race; it is a crisis that could and does affect many of our lives. More education should be administered at a collegiate level about drugs and the dangers they pose. I wish that my friend had been better educated before the worst case scenario came true. However, it is important to recognize that those dealing with drug addiction need sympathy and support from the individuals around them, and the community as a whole. It's in all of our communities, hiding behind closed doors, and when people begin to speak up and educate, the demon could be destroyed.