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At Your Fingertips

Riley Kelley

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   Sitting in Music Appreciation a couple weeks ago, Dr. Wrolstad mentioned the opioid epidemic and I immediately straightened up in my chair. I was intrigued by the conversation, as he began warning us of the dangers of using prescription drugs as teenagers and the damage it can do to our prefrontal cortex. He pointed to the front of his brain, reminding us we aren’t fully developed up there quite yet. I was mildly shocked to hear him use the word “opioids” in a classroom full of teenagers.

   In January, I started an internship with a global nonprofit stationed out of Washington D.C. called the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies. I thought these were terms I only saw in weekly newsletters from the organization I work for. After this conversation I realized the impact of this epidemic is reaching kids my own age.

   The opioid epidemic is, quite literally, a national public health emergency. President Trump renewed the declaration of the epidemic as a public health crisis in January, and dedicated a whopping $13 billion to combating the epidemic. For my internship, I am responsible for tracking data about the amount of legal and illegal drugs being sold through unsafe online platforms. The most shocking thing I’ve learned during my internship has been the accessibility of illegal substances and the way illegally operated websites target a younger market. The dangers of controlled substances and pills with potentially deadly ingredients are a Google search away.

   As a teenager who spends free time scrolling through social media, I have encountered Twitter accounts with links to websites promising to sell “legal and safe meds”. Cloud N9Ne Syrup, a hemp syrup that hasn’t been FDA-tested for safety of its ingredients, is a product I’ve seen advertised several times on my timeline (KATV Little Rock). Teenagers already have enough pressure surrounding them in the form of peer groups. The last thing they need is to be tempted by inappropriate advertisements on Twitter.

   In an era of endless access, I would encourage my fellow teenagers to be careful and realize they are living in a time where you cannot afford to get involved with drugs. The opioid epidemic is called an epidemic for a reason, it’s impacting people from all walks of life, even students like the ones in our very own building. Young people our age are being targeted by illegal online sellers and dealers on top of the pressure provided by peers to abuse drugs. It’s critically important to resist this pressure. The problem is right at our fingertips, but so is the ability to create a solution.

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At Your Fingertips