The Destructive Opiates Epidemic


Ava Francis-Hall

Many youths in Marin County have felt the effects of the opioid crisis as the cycle of addiction affects friends or family, or even themselves. 

Drug use among teens has shifted throughout the years with new and appealing drugs taking the place of previous drugs of choice. Marijuana and Vapes receive the most attention, and for a good reason. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, nearly 45 percent of 11th graders admitted to current drug and alcohol use. However, the impact that opioid use has had on members of the community cannot be overstated.

“When it comes to unintentional injury deaths in the U.S., more people die from prescription medication overdoses than motor vehicle crashes,” states the California Department of Healthcare Services.

Locally, 30 Marin County residents died from overdoses in 2018. In a County News Release, Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matthew Willis stated that emergency vehicles were responding to three to five overdoses per week. 

Drug addictions do not discriminate based on sex, race, or socioeconomic background. The increasing opioid use across the country can appropriately be labeled an epidemic. This epidemic can be traced to a complex web of factors that have been woven over the years. 

Overprescription of pain medications and lack of community resources have fueled the unforgiving attack of the drug. 

The impact that opioid use has wreaked has not sufficiently equated to the discussion about opioid use. In 2017, more than 70,000 people nationwide died from drug overdoses. In Marin County alone, 30 people died from overdoses in 2018. 

Youth can become affiliated with drugs through various means. Overprescription can lead to a reliance on painkillers. A party could introduce the drug to an individual, leading them on an unpredictable path. The bottles in the medicine cabinet could be emptied day by day. A report stated that 83 percent of teens who use opioids took them from friends or family.  

Chief of Addiction Services at Marin Health and Human Services Jeff Devido described the methods that local officials are using to contain the epidemic. Encouraging physicians to lower their prescription amounts in conjunction with education on the risks of opioids is proving to have the most consequential change. 

“These kind of things, while not directly aimed at youth, impact youth indirectly by creating a situation in which access to opioids is less,” said Devido. 

Statistics teacher Marti Scheer has been affected by addiction in her family. Scheer’s son was an addict for 11 years, a time in which her fundamental view of what it meant to be a parent changed drastically. 

“I was as good as he was, because as a mom there was no way to get over that,” said Scheer. “There’s nothing any friend or family member can do, it’s the addict that has to want to stop.”

Local efforts to combat this epidemic involve enlisting local community resources in the fight. Libraries across Marin, pharmacies, and other community centers carry the lifesaving overdose antidote Naloxone. 

Rhiannon Saltzman, a manager at the Spahr center, and LGBTQ center located in Corte Madera, spoke on the organization’s decision to carry the drug. 

“The Spahr Center started offering Naloxone to our clients as part of our harm reduction services in 2016. This was part of a county-wide effort to reverse overdose deaths from opioids. This effort has been successful, in 2017 we had 18 instances of opioid overdose reversals, in 2018 – 23,” she said. 

Community efforts to stop drug use at its roots and increasing awareness about this issue prove to be successful at preventing opioid overdoses, and will only be further employed as the epidemic continues.