Nichols Student News

News from a student's view.

February, 2018

Opioid epidemic impacts citizens nationwide.

In October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency. The opioid epidemic has spread across the United States, and Missouri has been no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 3 million Americans were affected by opioid abuse and affected over 42,000 deaths in 2016.

An opioid is a drug such as oxycodone, vicodin, or heroin that numbs the pain receptors in the nervous system. Starting in the 90’s, opioid addiction became a problem in the United States when doctors started over prescribing pills to their patients

From 2015 to 2016, there was a 35% increase in overdose deaths. In 2016, there were 908 deaths due to opioid related overdoses in Missouri. Counties in eastern/mid Missouri such as Franklin, Jefferson, and Lincoln had the highest overdose death rate. Most of the overdosing was caused by fentanyl, a legal painkiller usually mixed in with heroin.

David Stoecker, a former opioid addict, became addicted to opioids after coming out of a coma due to injuries he sustained from a car crash. After overcoming his addiction, he became a caregiver for an addiction recovery system.

“Once I became dependent and I was no longer getting the prescription, I found people who were prescribed opioids for other things like cancer and things like that, and I would trade them methamphetamines for the opioids,” said Stoecker.

Sarah Hart is a former addict and a current resident at The Healing House, an addiction recovery center in Jefferson City. Hart explains that she once had a great life with a family, a job, and a possible degree until she became addicted to painkillers. Her opioid addiction led to the use of methamphetamines and to her losing everything.

“It’s a chemical that messes with your brain chemistry and it changes you on the inside. It changes the way your brain mentally functions,” Hart said. “You have no control when you cross that invisible line. It is a drug. It will control you.”  

Reporter:  Daniel Hayden       Photographers:  Brendan Berhorst and Max Muenks