According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the rate of individuals suffering from Opioid Use Disorder in Massachusetts is almost one-third higher than the national rate.
In 2016, an estimated 2,190 Massachusetts residents died from an opioid-related overdose. Nationally, over 60,000 individuals died from a drug overdose that same year, which in large part was due to opioid-related deaths rising “fivefold,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While early 2017 reports indicate that opioid-related deaths declined by 10 percent in Massachusetts, this is still an epidemic many FSU students have witnessed first hand.
According to a Gatepost survey conducted in November, of the 500 Framingham State students surveyed, 187 said they knew someone who has struggled with opioid addiction. Nearly 40 percent of the individuals surveyed have seen the effects of the crisis that, according to Vox.com, has caused more fatalities in 2016 than during the entire Vietnam War.
While at the state level, Governor Charlie Baker has been working to reduce the death toll, here at Framingham State, more can be done to educate the students who may be struggling with addiction themselves.
More needs to be done to inform these students of the resources that are available to them.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they were unaware of the resources available on campus to those who are struggling with addiction. Additionally, 64.8 percent said they didn’t think the University is equipped to to help individuals who may be struggling with an opioid addiction at all.
For those wondering – the Health Center is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Counseling Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment. We believe both centers should be open on the weekend as many students’ weekdays are filled with classes and work.
Students who are struggling with addiction are advised to go to the health and wellness centers located in Foster Hall, which is right next to the McCarthy Center. From there, students will be referred to a specialist outside of FSU, who will then assess the students’ situations and potentially prescribe them medication.
Along with the array of pamphlets throughout the office, that referral is the extent of the aid FSU provides students who are addicted to opioids.
While in the last year the Health Center has hired Joy LaGrutta as the coordinator of Alcohol and Drug Prevention, there has been limited widespread programming to inform students about opioid addiction.
Everyone knows when SUAB is hosting bingo. Everyone knew when Elizabeth Warren visited campus. Not everyone knows about the tables the Health Center sponsors in the McCarthy Center.
In November, the Health Center hosted a screening of the movie “Then and Now,” which likens the growing marijuana industry to the tobacco industry. This screening was followed by a discussion led by LaGrutta.
More important than discussions concerning marijuana are those addressing opioid addiction. Unlike opioid addiction, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
We call on the Health Center to host a similar event with a specialist trained to answer questions about opioid addiction.
Thirty-three percent of students surveyed know someone who has died of an opioid overdose. Addiction is something that impacts nearly everyone’s life. This national crisis has gone unchecked for years, and has only recently been addressed. In the past, addiction has been treated as a personal failing, not as a health crisis.
We as a community need to be educated.