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The Appalachian

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The Appalachian

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Letter to the Editor: Opioid use on college campuses

Letter+to+the+Editor%3A+Opioid+use+on+college+campuses

As we have seen over the past several decades, opioid prescriptions are on the rise. Subsequently, we are also seeing increased overdose deaths from these opioids. According to the CDC, an estimated 79,770 people died from opioid-related overdose deaths over a one-year period in 2022. This number is hard to accurately calculate due to the nature of the deaths. The CDC also reports that opioids were part of about 80,411 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, which was just over three-quarters of all overdose deaths that year. Finding the number of overdose deaths relies upon reporting or procedures and tests such as autopsies or toxicology reports. It is speculated that overdose deaths are severely underreported in the U.S. 

In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in five states, including North Carolina, the rate of overdose deaths was higher in rural counties than in urban counties. Residents in rural areas have a higher likelihood of using substances. Rural Health Information Hub states that the factors contributing to their increased risk of using substances are low educational attainment, poverty, unemployment, lack of access to mental healthcare, isolation, hopelessness and a greater sense of stigma. With the increased use of substances comes an increased risk of overdose and death. Substance use and substance use disorders can be exacerbated in rural areas due to the lack of care options that are available to those who live there. 

Research has shown that, behind marijuana, opioids are the second most common form of drug use by college students. The University of West Virginia reports that about 5.4% of students in 2012 were misusing substances. App State is not immune to this growing issue. App State has a Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program, which releases a report every year about alcohol and drugs. This report includes information about campus policies, what students should know regarding the substances, and even North Carolina policies and laws. This report also provides information about arrests and judicial referrals for students both on and off campus over several years. In both 2021 and 2022, App State had 37 students arrested for drug use on campus property, and in 2022 there were 27 students arrested for drug use on public property. It is clear that there is a need for education and changes to be made on our campus. 

We need to strive to generate a policy that requires all App State-owned/affiliated buildings to have the opioid reversal agent naloxone readily accessible within them. This policy should also mandate that all faculty, staff and students go through naloxone training, specifically Resident Assistants in the resident halls on campus. The more people who have access to naloxone and know what the signs of an overdose are and how they can stop it, the more people are less likely to die from a fatal overdose. Wellness and Prevention Services on campus currently stock Narcan, a nasal spray form of naloxone; however, the university should be encouraged to stock more of it and directly advertise that Wellness and Prevention Services offers it to students, faculty and staff for no cost.

 

Ashlyn Bartlett

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