UT must not overlook opioid epidemic

Emily Severe

Perhaps nothing weighs so heavily on the conscience of American health care as the rising opioid epidemic. In the past year alone, more than 30,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States.

The University of Texas is not immune to the epidemic.

In recent years, the student body experienced losses from substance abuse-related accidents and overdoses, including opioid-related incidents. To combat the rise of opioid abuse and the ever-present risk of substance abuse among college students, UT must continue to expand resources for those affected and to update prevention programs already in place.

In order to fight the cycle of abuse, we must confront the default of blame and choose to act instead of simply looking the other way. Opioid addiction, worsened by the rise of fentanyl, a master of disguise which boasts lethality in miniscule doses, poses a growing threat to college students. In a culture that encourages students to take prescription pills to make the grade and that inadequately educates with a prevention-only stance, we fall behind by failing to arm our students with lifesaving knowledge.

The Center for Students in Recovery, a resource for students at UT who are recovering from addiction, focuses on community and positive growth as tools for students who participate in their programs. The center emphasizes student participation and sets an example for other campuses to follow— lend a hand, not your judgement.

Addicts present a facade that is hard to crack, especially among university students struggling  to maintain an outward appearance of success and positivity in an increasingly competitive academic environment. UT has an obligation to provide the tools for success and to prevent tragedies from occurring by generating a discussion on substance abuse and allowing access to resources for recovery and prevention.

Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker, a professor in the School of Social Work, is involved with UT Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors (DAPA) and Operation Naloxone. She saw widespread support for her proposal for a Pop-Up Research Initiative to address substance misuse and addiction. The existence and expansion of programs such as these, programs that provide vital support to students who feel the pressure of addiction alongside the pressure to succeed, indicate a demand for university assistance.

We have a duty to shift the addiction crisis into the spotlight without blaming those affected by it. When we focus on recovery instead of shame, expand resources for those who need them, and establish a stronger education program for prevention as well as treatment, we will see a stronger, healthier student body.

Emily Severe is a Business Honors junior from Round Rock, Texas.