Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Do you have a comment you would like to express? Submit your letter to the editor and let your voice be heard. Please include you name, major and year in school (if applicable). Priority will be given to VCU students and faculty who focus in issues that affect the Virginia Commonwealth University community. The Editor reserves the right to edit and cut submissions as needed.

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  1. My name is Tiara Stephens and I am a freshman psychology major at Virginia Commonwealth University. In my Focused Inquiry class we were assigned the task of researching a problem amongst youth in Richmond and coming up with possible ways to address and even solve the issue. As you know, we are dealing with the third wave of a very damaging opioid crisis. According to World Health Organization, there were approximately 63,632 deaths due to opioid drug overdose. As of 2015, 5,376 of these deaths can be attributed to teenagers and has since been on a rise, increasing by 19% in 2017. These drugs include but are not limited to: alcohol, cocaine, heroin and other illicit opioids, prescription drugs, and synthetic cannabinoids. Furthermore, Fentanyl is the most abused drug in youth aged 18-25. People either take Fentanyl knowingly or unknowingly being that drug dealers have started mixing Fentanyl with heroine to increase the high. Nonetheless, this is still an opioid that poses a very big problem.

    This is a very complex situation, so there is really no concrete solution or method to pinpoint and end this issue. What we can start with though, is education. Students in America spend at least 11 or 12 years in school, and a lot of times even more. School has a big influence on the thought process and knowledge students obtain and take with them in life. We have educators set in place to teach students information to prepare them for the real world, information that they can use now but especially later on in life.

    I remember being in high school and learning about tobacco and alcohol. We would have assignments where we created presentations on the dangers and effects or a fill-in-the-blank worksheet about these drugs. No, I do not intend on downplaying the seriousness of either drug because they both claims thousands, if not millions, of lives every year; however, there are more serious drugs that need to be and should be included in the curriculum. Drugs that change people’s lives forever just like the ones we talk about in the classroom. My sophomore year of high school, my father, step-mother, and I were driving to North Carolina for Christmas and they were listening to Doctor Radio. I remember hearing the mention of an opioid crisis, but still, as a 16-year-old in the 11th grade-I did not know what an opioid was or even an opioid crisis. Yes, we have the power to research this information on our own but that is not the point entirely. Again, we have educators in place to provide the information to us. Not only do they have the credibility, but they also have the means to do so. In a survey taken of high school students, teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from in school are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t. We have had programs like D.A.R.E providing statistics and numbers on people who have used or are using drugs, but kids do not need numbers. They need the background information, the foundation of it all, not just what lays on the surface.

    After doing research using the Virginia Department of Education website and looking under the SOL tab for “all health”, I have found that inhalants are now included in the curriculum and on the tests. This is great and by no means do I plan on attacking this. But again, drug access is not limited to buying it from someone off of the corner or what we find under the kitchen sink. We have doctors who prescribe drugs highly susceptible to being abused often which is why we need to talk about these drugs as well. We need to make students aware of the possibilities they are vulnerable to, should they ever have a serious trip to the hospital.

    One important thing I want to emphasize is that my intention is not to promote the use of drugs but show the real problems associated with using drugs. Yeah, it gets you high and you might feel on top of the world but that high ends eventually. Then you go seeking another high and the more you seek these highs, the more addicted your body becomes and the more the drugs slowly start to eat away at your body and brain. It is important to let the youth know that doing drugs can lead to the point of dependency. Not an “oh I really need to get high” craving, but a mindset and reality of “cannot live without.” That is the point where they become a true addict. That is the point where serious help needs to be found. It is also important to remind them of the feasibility of an addict keeping a job, securing a place to live, having a car, and mainly other normal life situations versus someone who chooses not to use drugs.

    While artists like Lil Pump, Jhené Aiko, or even Wiz Khalifa play through their speakers telling them to get high and be young, wild, and free, school needs to be on the other end saying, “Oh yeah? Go ahead if you want to but this is where that’ll lead to and this is what can happen. This is the truth about the falsely glorified life you so wish to live.”

    School is meant to groom and prepare us for the real world, which in a sense it does, but “y=mx+b” and class periods on historical sites will only get us so far. We need to talk about drugs, violence, ways to survive on our own, paths to take in life, and many more essential things in life.

    The youth is our future and right now we are in an era where they are subject to being everything that we do not need due to social media, peer influence, and bad personal choices. Like Dr. Ben Carson, a philanthropist and former neurosurgeon, school can be the one thing that young students take pride in. This can spark the interest in them of leading a better life than they already live or the people around them live.

    It takes a village to do just about anything, so as long as we work together and provide them eminent information, we can change the lives of many people. Not only will it bring awareness to people, but it will also shed light on a damaging drug addiction in the United States that we merely pay any attention.

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