The Opioid Epidemic: A National Emergency

The opioid crisis devastating the country was the topic of discussion during this week’s Pizza & Politics.

Before a question could be asked, students were presented with statistics to illustrate the urgency and reality of the opioid crisis: 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses and Utah ranks 4th in overdose deaths per capita.

Students were then asked what they thought caused the crisis and what continues to fuel its growth. Some students believed the rise in opioid abuse is due to the fact that most opioids are prescribed and therefore less criminalized. Others thought it was a result of the widespread coverage insurance provides for opioids as opposed to alternative pain relievers including medical marijuana, thus causing an increasing number of legal prescriptions.

The focus then shifted to where the blame should fall. Should the medical professional or the patient be held solely responsible, or should they both share the responsibility and therefore the blame? Could the fault lie in a larger systematic oversight or shortcoming? Most students felt it was a combination of all three, that personal responsibility was crucial but that medical professionals had a responsibility to ensure they were not overprescribing opioids to their patients. They need to make sure their patients understand the risks involved with prescriptions containing opioids.

Students were asked to determine if the opioid crisis should be considered a criminal or social/health issue, garnering the most involved discussion of the day. Many students felt that opioid addiction should be considered a social/health issue and that abusers should be rehabilitated rather than incarcerated. Still others felt that many of those individuals addicted to opioids, whether legally prescribed or not, would eventually fall into criminal activity, either as a result of their addiction or in an attempt to supply their addiction.

Pizza & Politics is intended to give students the opportunity to learn from fellow students as well as share their knowledge. Real social issues, like that of the Opioid crisis, can not be solved with a 50 minute discussion. It is however, important that people are aware of the issues and ways to help those affected. SUU is proud that so many of its students are invested in making a difference.

To participate in the discussion, attend Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.


Story by
Lily Shurtleff for SUU News