Eye of The Epidemic

Ohio’s Top Rank In Overdose Deaths Encourages Students To Spread Awareness

ATHENS – In an attempt to draw attention to Ohio’s out-of-control opioid and heroin overdose epidemic, campus organization Ohio Heroes Against Heroin (OHAH) stepped up its awareness efforts Tuesday with a daylong event in Walter Hall’s Rotunda.

Ohio University College of Health Science and Professions (CHSP) program OHAH hosted the event “Paint the Campus Purple,” which held panel discussions reflecting on people’s lives in recovery and the physical effects of opioid and heroin abuse, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ohioans.

The total number of drug overdose deaths reached an all-time high in 2015, with a total of 3,050 people dying from the abuse of illegal substances and prescribed drugs. Drugs such as heroin and opioids account for over two-thirds of the total overdoses. According to Ohio Department of Health website, the epidemic has steadily risen over the last two years, as the number of opioid overdoses has increased from 2,106 in 2014 to 2,590 in 2015.

According to The Columbus Dispatch website, Ohio contains the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the nation, which influenced CHSP’s day-long event to increase students’ knowledge on the rising epidemic.

OU student Nick Fowkes expressed his support of OHAH’s initiative, and said its efforts to educate students on the impact of heroin and opioid abuse was an efficient way to spread awareness.

“I think it’s a strong and powerful way to get awareness toward this very important issue,” said Fowkes. “I mean, there’s obviously a multitude of different ways that the organization can reach a crowd of people, but I do think that going through an educational route and trying to raise awareness through different programs and different events is a very strong and interactive way in educating the public.”

Chloe Hall, whose personal experiences witnessing the effects of heroin use inspired OHAH’s campaign, said she feels its efforts to inform students on the epidemic have broadened their perception on how it affects the lives of addicts and their families.

“My sister is an addict and has been missing since February, and seeing the way people view her and other addicts really made me want to open people’s eyes,” said Hall. “Plus, the epidemic affects so many families and not just the addicts.”

Though Hall feels OHAH has made a positive impact on OU students, she believes that the organization has the potential to marshal more people and reach beyond the perimeters of Athens campus, helping to clarify the misconceptions many attribute to the epidemic.

“I think that the more people that get involved the more we are ruining the stigma of addicts and their families,” said Hall. “I have told my story to many people and they learned a lot about the epidemic just from hearing my sister’s story. Although, I think that we can keep going to spread more awareness to have a bigger impact on the students.”

Hall encourages students to continue to show support toward OHAH’s efforts, citing its message as inspiration for starting her own nonprofit organization, Arika’s Angels, which also educates people on the effects of heroin and opioid abuse.

Though her organization’s relatively new, Hall said she looks forward to its development as a resource for continuing the fight. She intends on partnering with other nonprofit organizations to help support families affected by users of illegal substances and prescribed opioids, and expand her organization beyond the Athens community.

“I plan to do so by partnering with other organizations and rehab facilities to [normalize] the lives of recovering addicts and their families, especially their children,” said Hall. “I want their children to understand the type of illness their parent has instead of them getting taken away from them and not giving them a second chance at life.”

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