The opioid epidemic: what do we know and where do we go


OxyContin 80 mg pills in an August 2013 file image. A new filing in a Massachusetts case ramps up the legal and financial pressure against the Sackler family, which owns the company that makes OxyContin. (Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Sunshine Angulo , Staff Writer

On March 20, 2019 at 6:30 p.m., a social justice symposium entitled “The Opioid Epidemic: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go?” was held at Cameron Hall. The symposium, sponsored by UNC Wilmington’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, featured a screening of the WRAL documentary “Searching for a Fix.”

The documentary was produced by Clay Johnson, who was also at the event, and had a panel discussion led by local agencies. These panelists included Chief Ralph Evangelous of the Wilmington Police Department; Kenny House, the Vice-President of Clinical Services and Coastal Horizons Center Inc.; Bernadette Calicchio of the IV/HCV Testing and Linkage to Care and NC Harm Reduction Coalition; Joe Pino of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center; Bill Buck of Hope House Recovery Center; Lona Currie, a member of the recovery community; and the New Hanover and Pender County District Attorney’s Office.

The WRAL documentary, “Searching for a Fix,” featured local North Carolina families who have lost children due to the opioid epidemic. The film centers on how initial opioid fixations begin with needing to take medication for a physical injury. The story of these families continues to unravel as these children become further addicted to opioids and eventually begin using heroin due to its affordability and accessibility.

The harsh reality of drug addiction settles in as it does because many of the families featured in the documentary have little to no affordable resources for recovery and rehabilitation. Thankfully, the film also highlights preventative measures and resources to help those previously addicted to opioids and heroin from relapsing and causing more harm to themselves. Examples include Healing Transitions in Raleigh, the Hope Initiative in Rocky Mount, and the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.

The panelists present at the symposium answered questions regarding how to stop the opioid epidemic and the current state of the epidemic as a whole through the lens of an addict in recovery.

“To stop the epidemic we must be aware and social. Sometimes we take it at face value and hope they’re going to be okay instead of being proactive. Get a response. We understand it’s an illness. We know they’re not a bad person,” said House.

Overall, the panelists insisted that the expansion of social and economic policies such as Medicaid and changing how the American people view the opioid epidemic are crucial elements to stopping it.

If you or a loved one are experiencing issues with drugs, you can call the National Drug Helpline at 1-800-633-3239.