High School Sports

West Virginia to address issue of opioid abuse in high school sports

02/03/04: (JOHN D. SIMMONS/STAFF)
02/03/04: (JOHN D. SIMMONS/STAFF)

In West Virginia, government officials are trying to deal with the issue of opioid abuse in high school athletics.

According to Charleston ABC affiliate WHSV, West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey announced Friday that his office will start a statewide campaign to help educate athletes about the dangers of opioid use. This will include educational fliers, public service announcements and speaking events throughout the state. The effort will see his office partner with the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, the West Virginia Board of Medicine and the West Virginia Physical Therapy Group.

Opioids are medications, like hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (PercoCet, OxyContin) that are prescribed to relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. They are also highly addictive and often abused. Legendary singer Prince is believed to have died after an opioid overdose.

Morrisey points to a University of Michigan study that found that 21 percent of male high school athletes and 14 percent of female high school athletes will suffer a sports-related injury in school year. The study showed that male athletes are twice as likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers and four times more likely to abuse them than non-athletes.

And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. is dealing with a prescription opioid overdose epidemic.

In 2014, more than 28,000 people died from opioid overdose. Many more became addicted to prescription and illegal opioids. Heroin-related deaths have tripled since 2010. In 2014, more than 10,500 people died from heroin.

According to WHSV, 598 of 686 drug overdose deaths in West Virginia were the result of opioid abuse.

In North Carolina, the state’s rate of fatal drug overdoses has jumped nearly 75 percent since 2002, federal data shows.

"This is now an unequivocal public health crisis," Dr. Scott Kirby, chief medical officer for the N.C. Medical Board, told the Observer in February.

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Opioid abuse signs

  • Noticeable elation/euphoria.
  • Marked sedation/drowsiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Constricted pupils.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Intermittent nodding off, or loss of consciousness.
  • Constipation
  • Source: Drugabuse.com
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