Staff Editorial: The Opioid Epidemic: Everyone’s Problem



America’s opioid epidemic is reaching a deadly crescendo. Let’s not mince words: people across the country are dying at an alarming rate. Every day, 115 people die from overdoses in America. Between the time you start and finish reading this editorial, it’s likely another family lost a loved one; another spouse lost a life partner; another parent lost a child.

There exists a well-known but seldom-mentioned stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially substance addiction and dependence. Indeed, it can be difficult to imagine what this stigma looks like in practice because we so rarely discuss addiction until it takes its toll on someone we love. And when we do talk about it, we tend to shy away from the conversation or, understandably, avoid using certain words because they sting. But this is not progress. This is denial. These sentiments are all too common. Maybe they’re not in the tweets with the most likes or at the top of the YouTube comments section, but they are far more prevalent than is acceptable.

Substance abuse and dependence do not occur in a vacuum. Individuals who succumb to addiction do not do so because they are reckless or deviant. Overdosing is most often the culmination of years of psychological torment. Consequently, it’s our responsibility as members of a community to understand why addiction occurs and how to help.

Fordham University is not immune to this epidemic. National averages don’t tell the whole story, but we cannot assume our campus is somehow separate from the 30 percent of all college students who sought help for addiction, as reported by the 2017 National College Health Assessment.

In solidarity with our university, students must play a more active role in the lives of their classmates. Checking on them isn’t enough. If you know they’re struggling, actively stay involved in their recovery process. Offer to talk about it at length. Offer to look for recovery specialists and therapists together. Offer to look at rehab options together and offer to go with them. Offer to be physically there when they tell their parents. Neither Fordham, nor any one student, needs necessarily to become a savior to those struggling with addiction in the community; however, the opioid crisis is such that there is obvious room for all of us to improve.

Unless we take swift decisive action, opioid use, prescription or otherwise, will continue to rise hand-in-hand with apathy and reluctance to address the stigma of drug abuse. On a community level, this action includes fostering an active conversation to tear down the stigma. When another star falls victim to drug abuse, we tend to briefly rekindle a largely and empty conversation. Real change will only come when we take the opioid crisis seriously and ignite a continuous, meaningful dialogue. Even and especially among those of us who believe we are already doing our part, we must always strive to do better.