The University of Connecticut Honors Program hosted a discussion regarding crime and addiction and the massive impact it has on many Americans’ lives on Tuesday night. As citizens of a country where drug-related deaths take place in high numbers, it is imperative that everyone is well informed and aware of how quickly one decision can negatively impact one’s entire life.
Jiana Baker, a third-semester track and field athlete and member of the Honors program, engaged the audience with group quizzes and videos that effectively highlighted the drug crisis taking place all around us. One specific question on the quiz asked how many people died in the United States in 2015 from pain reliever overdoses. Students collectively decided to answer 12,000. Unfortunately, the correct answer was 22,000, with another 13,000 dying from heroin overdoses that same year. That means 35,000 people died in 2015 just from heroin and painkiller overdoses. In 2016 and 2017, 24,249 people died from an opioid overdose, 2 million people misused prescription opioids for the first time, 886,000 people used heroin, and there were “19,413 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone,”according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This boils down to approximately over 130 people dying everyday from opioid-related drug overdoses.
A video, called “A History of the War on Drugs,” narrated by Jay-Z, explained the failed “War on Drugs” started by President Richard Nixon in 1971. It showcased through drawings how the U.S. incarcerated so many people on drug-related charges that there were more inmates in America than any other country in the world. Out of all the arrests, 80 percent were for drug possession and 50 percent of those were for marijuana, a drug which has now been legalized in several states. Thus, prisons were overfilled with “criminals” who were serving long periods of time for possessing marijuana. This led to over-packed jails and other issues in the criminal system.
In order to combat drug use, programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) were implemented in educational facilities. Elementary students sat in classrooms as police officers explained the negative impacts of drug use and how everyone needed to pledge to never take drugs. Surprisingly, statistics display D.A.R.E. had no positive impact on the number of drug related cases.
Even worse, many people become addicted to drugs because doctors and other medical professionals prescribed medications such as oxycodone. While such potent medications greatly aid in improving the lives of cancer patients and people with acute pain, they are often a stepping stone to heroin addiction. Once a patient becomes addicted to oxycodone and is unable to receive the prescriptions, they begin using heroin, one of the most addictive drugs, to cope. This speaks to the debate over whether pharmaceutical companies exascerbate the addiction problem for personal monetary gain.
In New Haven, Connecticut, there was a massive overdose in a central park. Over 40 victims were taken to the hospital in less than 24 hours, some in critical condition. It is believed the drug they took was K2, also known as synthetic marijuana. A police officer explained there were “some that were unconscious, some that were nauseous, lethargic, some in respiratory arrest.” Another officer said he had “never seen something like this in 21 years.” Synthetic marijuana is also known to be laced with rat poison or fentanyl, which killed several people.
It is important to always remember that while one drug may seem “safe,” it could be laced with something dangerous. Even simply trying a potent drug can result in a massive addiction that will deter the rest of one’s future. Drug-related deaths are happening everywhere, with loved ones losing their friends, mothers, fathers, sisters and neighbors.
Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.