The father of a teenager who died from an opioid overdose in 2011 has made it his life’s mission to educate students of the overwhelming power of opioid addiction in hopes of preventing more deaths like the one that killed his son.
“Guess what’s coming your way,” he told a group of Ohio’s South Greene High School students. “This epidemic.”
Prescription opioids, illegal heroin, and synthetic fentanyl kill more than 115 people in the United States every day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Wayne Campbell’s son Tyler was one of them.
Tyler was prescribed opioids to treat pain following shoulder surgery. He became addicted to the painkillers, ultimately turning to heroin and dying of an overdose 18 months later.
Alarmingly, addiction to legally prescribed opioid treatment is not uncommon, especially among teenagers, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said this week during a speech to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“What happens is that this young person who’s exposed medically is more likely to use opioids non-medically later in life,” he said. “We know from the medical literature that high school students exposed medically (to opioids) are more likely to use opioids in young adulthood in a non-medical setting.”
Regardless of how teenagers become addicted, Campbell wants the trend of using the drugs to stop. He called on the students to persist in trying to help anyone they know who may be a victim of opioid addiction. And to understand that 911 Good Samaritan Laws will protect them in situations such as if they take someone who is overdosing to an emergency room.
Campbell will continue to encourage people to “Speak Up, Save a Life,” at schools in Ohio. He has also appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” HBO’s “Real Sports,” and the Big Ten Network.