A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Features, Opinions

Opioid addictions on the rise in Md.

The population of Prince George’s County is suffering from an opioid epidemic, or better yet an influx in Narcan administration.

According to Cameron Luttrel, of the Patch, the Maryland Department of Health released data for fatal overdoses for the first quarter of 2017, and the numbers show that opioid-related overdose deaths continue to skyrocket in the state.

For one student, senior Paul Rozario, this outbreak was of no knowledge to him before a project conducted in the IB program.

“It’s crazy to know that an outbreak has occurred in my community and without having conducted a project on it, I probably would have never known,” said Rozario. “I don’t believe a lot of people are aware that this epidemic has affected a great number of our people let alone students.”

Wouldn’t you think that the opioid epidemic had no place in PG county Maryland, but guess what…. it does! In fact, according to The Washington Post, there were 918 heroin-related deaths through the first nine months of 2016 — up 23 percent in all of 2015 and up nearly 60 percent in 2014.

Prince George’s County has the second-lowest rate of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in the state, behind Montgomery County alone. Although numbers remain relatively low, there is evidence that some aspects of the statewide epidemic have begun to come to PG.

In addition to battling heroin, Maryland is fighting a sudden rise in the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which experts say can be more than 1,000 times stronger than morphine, according to The Washington Times.

This epidemic is making a comeback and it’s not a nice one. Schools are now being asked to speak out about this crisis because it has indeed resulted in being costly.

With reference to The Washington Post, the laws that take effect July 1 include the Start Talking Maryland Act, which requires public schools to offer drug education platforms on opiates and heroin in grades three to 12. The law also requires that all colleges and universities accept state funding to have a heroin and opioid prevention plan that includes incoming, full-time students.

Ironically, the IB class of 2018 at PHS did a project on the opioid crisis in PG county just earlier this school year. It was interesting to see how four specific areas of study that branch out from the sciences intertwine with this epidemic, which include: Neurology, Psychology, Economy and Sociology.

As a result, the class was able to see a wide span of data, both qualitative and quantitative from sessions that include focus groups, surveys, open talk sessions and more.

For one student, senior, Camryn Williams, it was evident that schools no longer take the time to inculcate the fact that drugs are not good.

“Drug use has become so common in this generation that people don’t think they can be affected by it,” said Williams. “Drug abuse, specifically with the opium epidemic, has become a daily routine for many. While working on this project, I noticed that unlike in middle school, we are no longer spoken [to] about drugs and how they can really damage our futures. The youth of this community has become so reliant on the use of drugs that they feel that they can’t be themselves without its intake.”

This crisis is at the edge of being tamed, but it’s on us, the people of this community, to enlighten those around us who are not aware of the deadly epidemic.