Opioid use has become so prevalent in this country that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the year 2016 marked a ten-year low in the prescribing rate of opioid medications with just 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people, which makes more than 214 million prescriptions in total.

photo illustration by Angelique Inchierca / Photo

photo illustration by Angelique Inchierca / Photo

“The Overdosing of America: Addressing the Current Opioid Crisis,” was presented on Wednesday, Feb. 21 by Associate Professor of Health Science John Finneran, who said he was asked to speak because of the importance the issue. “I think they wanted to have somebody to step up and speak at Open College and maybe help present on the topic that has a lot of relevance not just on campus, but in the community,” Finneran said.

During the presentation, Finneran explained the science behind opioid addiction and how opioid medications interact with the brain. He also went into detail about the history of opioid use in medicine, beginning with opiums introduction to Europe in the 1400s to the 19th century when opioid-based products were sold without requiring a prescription and marketed to children. He also went over the first opioid regulations and the subsequent creation of its black market with the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act in 1914 and “Porter and Jick,” the nickname for a letter that Finneran described as the most commonly cited herald of today’s opioid crisis.

Later in the presentation, Finneran went into detail on the opioid medication industry, going over the way its products are marketed and the massive amount of profit it rakes in every year.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2016 saw the lowest opioid prescription rate in ten years, with opioid prescriptions reaching their peak in 2012 at a rate of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 people.

Finneran said that even though, to best of his knowledge, Keene State College itself isn’t experiencing problems with opioid use among students, that doesn’t necessarily mean the effects of the crisis aren’t being felt by students. “In my experience, many people are affected by the opioid crisis and you don’t have to have the problem yourself to be affected by it. A number of students that I have spoken to have talked about how opioid problems might be in their family, some have talked about how they have lost friends to the opioid epidemic,” Finneran said.

First-year and communication major Dylan Donoghue said he came to the event to fulfill a requirement for his management class, and also to learn more about opioid addiction, which is affecting people close to him. “Out of my cousins and my siblings, everyone in my generation in my family, I’m the only person who has never been hospitalized, near death, or had to go to rehab for their addiction to opioids and it’s frankly concerning to me,” Donoghue said.

When Finneran was taking questions after the main presentation, Donoghue asked if genetics play a role in opioid addiction.

Finneran answered yes, adding that it was only one part of the complex story.

“The opposite of addiction is connection” became a recurring phrase during the post-presentation discussion. During the Q&A session, several community members shared their perspective and thoughts on the crisis, with the idea of community being the solution to the crisis also recurring.

Bradford Hutchinson, a Keene resident, said he found out about the event through the Keene Sentinel and wanted to hear what Finneran had to say. “Just because you don’t know anyone who does drugs personally, are you going to live the rest of your life and not be in the position to help anybody? It’s about the more each one of us learns the more each one of us can be in the community, because the opposite of addiction isn’t abstinence, the opposite of addiction is connection,” Hutchinson said.

At the end of the presentation, Finneran recommended the audience go see the Addiction Performance Project, a dramatic reading and town hall discussion meant to raise awareness of addiction as a disease, in the Redfern Arts Center on March 8.

The event was hosted by The Keene State Presents: Open College program.

Vincent Moore can be contacted at vmoore@kscequinox.com