Dept. of Behavioral and Social Sciences partners with local organization to bring opioid addiction awareness
The opioid epidemic in the United States has become the silent killer of countless Americans in the last several years. According to stats from the National Center for Health Statistics, there were more than 64,000 deaths from drug overdose in 2016 alone, and close to 50,000 of those deaths were related to opioids.
That's why Lee University's Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences has decided to partner with The Bridge, a local organization that exists to protect young people from substance abuse, to bring the conversation about opioids to Lee.
The first session, which took place on Oct. 18, covered a definition of opioids and the statistics of their effects.
The second session, set for Nov. 8, will consider recovery and the restoration of normal life to those once addicted to opioids. It will also include an appearance by Miss Tennessee 2017, Caty Davis, who will share her experiences involving the battles her family has fought with the addictive substances.
Dr. Arlie Tagayuna, Lee sociology professor and lead faculty member for this event, explained to Lee Clarion why he's intent upon bringing the university's attention to the problem.
“I think it’s important for our students to understand this brewing crisis that we’re having here in our town, with regards to opioid crisis, because it’s a silent cancer,” Tagayuna said. “It affects everybody. All race, all gender, all social class and we still don’t know how to treat it—as a community and also as an institution.”
Opioids are found in the form of pain-killers such as codeine, oxycodone, morphine, etc. These drugs are extremely addictive, and overdose can be fatal. Public officials have even tagged the current opioid epidemic as the worst drug crisis in American history.
Senior psychology and chemistry major Sebastian Valderrama offered his thoughts on the serious nature of the problem.
“The opioid epidemic is one that has been increasing exponentially over the years, and now statistics show that four out five heroin addicts began by misusing prescription drugs,” Valderrama said. “It’s time that we use our resources to find a solution to an issue that is quickly destroying our country.”
The Brewing Crisis Symposium is designed to educate students and young people of the Cleveland community, but it has also made an impact on Lee faculty. Lee sociology professor Dr. Murl Dirksen reflected on the first session, where he found himself facing some hard truths.
“We want to think we know what a criminal looks like. We want to think we know what to do about crime. These are our pastors, these are our school teachers, these are our doctors, these are our parents—and they are hooked on painkillers,” Dirksen said.
But Dirksen believes the problem is equally psychological.
“Americans don’t like pain,” Dirksen said. “They take opioids to find comfort.”
Dirksen’s reasoning behind this epidemic appears to ring true with many substance issues that are gripping the lives of Americans today. And the issue hasn't escaped the eyes of the federal government.
President Donald Trump has said that he will soon declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, which would free up federal funding for aid.
In the meantime, the Lee and Bradley County communities will be learning what they can do to assist the millions of Americans affected by the opioid epidemic.
Check out the second session of the Brewing Crisis Symposium on Nov. 8. For more details, contact Dr. Arlie Tagayuna at firstname.lastname@example.org.