Opioid Crisis What Is George Mason Doing Help?
By Sabrina Fine: Communication Student- senior. George Mason University
In the United States, 115 people die a day from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2016, more people died from opioid overdoses than car crashes, according to opioids.gov. George Mason University is trying to help.
“Our provost convened a multi-disciplinary research team to learn about ways in which Mason can assist with this very difficult problem,” said Professor Katherine Rowan. “The team is composed of faculty from across several disciplines such as those in the health sciences, psychology, and communication.”
Mason also hosted a symposium April 19 to address Northern Virginia’s opioid epidemic. In attendance was Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and U.S. Representatives Barbara Comstock (VA-10) and Gerald Connolly (VA-11).
“This is happening to our friends and families. This is something that is touching every aspect of our lives,” Comstock said at the conference. “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be working as a community. That’s why it is so wonderful being here at George Mason University because you have outreach into all aspects of the community.”
With a record number of Americans abusing opioids, more is being learned about its consequences. Recently, researchers from the University of Exeter, King’s College London and the University of Bergen found a significant increase in harmful side effects related to the use of commonly prescribed opioid painkillers in people with dementia, compared to those on a placebo
The opioid problem also affects America’s youngest population. In 2014, 22,000 babies were born addicted to opioids, according to National Geographic.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome describes the condition of babies born addicted who go into withdrawal. Babies in opioid withdrawal cry repeatedly, wake more often and are seemingly constantly uncomfortable.
A major contributor to opioid use is overprescribing of the drugs by doctors, according to Opioid.gov. One way to address this problem is for states to fund addiction treatment for low-income individuals through Medicaid.
“Virginia and Ohio have recently allowed more low-income individuals to receive Medicaid,” said Katherine Rowan, a communication professor at George Mason University who studies science communication. “This increased funding is bringing down the number of opioid-related deaths in cities like Dayton, Ohio, that was hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs.”
“Another step is to monitor physicians prescribing opioids,” said Rowan. However, she cautioned that those who truly need the drugs for pain management should receive them.
“This is a crisis,” said Northam when he spoke at the Mason conference. “But if we all put our minds together, we can overcome it. We’ve done a lot of things in our history, and this is something that if we work together we can get done.”
References: Source for opioid addiction and dementia study: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180724110122.htm Source for drug deaths down in Dayton: