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Asheville’s Heroin Epidemic

Ryan Smoot, Reporter

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There is a silent killer in America. And it’s yet to be stopped.

 

The news-cycle is almost exclusively driven by fear, with topics such as the immigration debate, Russian and North Korean tensions, and ISIS dominating headlines. We loathe the concept of war and death, and yet as Americans — as primitive humans — we are simultaneously drawn to it. Collectively, we’re engrossed in the cable news coverage of the latest European terror attack or Zika outbreak — yet in West Virginia, Vermont, or perhaps just three blocks down the road — a young man slumps into his couch, a needle laying beside him. He no longer hears the CNN coverage of Trump’s latest tweet, or the ambulance siren that wails in a crescendo. Beyond wedge issues and foreign tensions, domestically we are a nation ravaged by heroin and opiates — unrelenting killers that took 52,000 American lives last year, a death tally that has yet to cease.

 

Nearly 2.5 million Americans are addicted to opioids, a number fueled by doctor prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone drugs, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Indeed, over the past 20 years, prescriptions for opiates have tripled, despite their known addictive nature. Heroin and Fentanyl — an even more potent prescription painkiller — have risen out of this opioid addiction as inexpensive, and deadlier, alternatives.

 

To the naked eye, opiates do not seem to exist in the halls of A.C. Reynolds, but make no mistake, the students and faculty at this school are not immune to the opioid epidemic.

 

“I’ve attended far too many funerals, and have known a lot of people that have gone through rehab due to opiates” said Charles Furlow, a CTE teacher. “I think this is the greatest man-made threat to ever face our society, and it’s a huge problem even here in Asheville”.

 

Senior Ethan Garrott agreed with the severity of the issue, adding that “It’s not just a problem here in Asheville, but across the entire Western region of the state.”

 

Indeed, in Western North Carolina, opioids are spreading rapidly. Last year, over 3000 patients were treated for opioid-addiction at Mission Hospital, compared to 1,611 in 2012. Such an uptick may be the result of residents in WNC being prescribed opioids twice as much as the state average, and heroin is notorious for dominating rural regions of the country.

 

Unfortunately, doctors are not the only witnesses to heroin overdoses. An AC Reynolds student, who wished to remain anonymous, saw an overdose first-hand.

 

“They were completely unresponsive, and no [amount of] yelling or slapping their face could wake them up. I thought they were dead”.

 

The opiate epidemic will never be cured until stricter legislation is imposed on oxycodone and hydrocodone prescriptions, Naloxone — a life-saving drug that revives overdosed addicts — becomes more accessible, and heroin users enter rehabilitation centers, instead of prison.

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Asheville’s Heroin Epidemic