UT is battling back against the opioid epidemic that's sweeping our society.
UT’s Opioid Task Force, UT Rocket Wellness, UT Pharmacy Program and UTMC brought awareness to the growing problem of opioid dependence by handing out blue ribbons on campus in observance of International Overdose Day August 31.
They want to erase the taboo associated with drug addiction and bring the community together to find solutions for it.
According to International Overdose Day, the event was the brainchild of Sally J. Finn, an employee of the Salvation Army in Melbourne, Australia.
“Since 2001, many community members as well as government and non-government organizations have held events to raise awareness and commemorate those who have been lost to drug overdose,” the website says.
The Opioid Task Force was created by UT President Sharon Gaber. The task force’s purpose is to facilitate discussion across different organizations about the crisis, train students and faculty for emergency situations and provide resources to those who need help.
Amy Thompson, interim associate vice provost of faculty affairs and co-chair of the Opioid Task Force, stressed how important it is for the diverse elements of UT to come together to create new opportunities for solutions to the opioid epidemic.
“It’s showing that there’s support and resources in the community and bringing awareness since this is an issue that impacts everybody,” Thompson said.
The issue of drug abuse, specifically opiates, is one that has started to permeate all areas of society in recent years. Thompson said this problem does not remain in the periphery but affects campus life as well.
“We conducted a study last year and found that six percent of students had taken some type of prescription medication not as it was intended to be taken,” Thompson said.
The Opioid Task Force is prepared to take on the task of mounting an opposition to this growing problem by facilitating cooperation between different organizations on campus, from research groups to medical personnel, down to the students and faculty of the university.
One of the most vital tools is the use of Narcan, a medication which blocks the effects of opioids. Narcan is quick acting and can mean the difference between life and death for someone experiencing an overdose.
The Opioid Task Force trains students and faculty on the proper use of Narcan to prepare them for emergency situations.
“We have helped to create opportunities for people across campus to be trained on Narcan, we were able to train about 200 people. We’re just really trying to show there’s resources people can contact across campus,” Thompson said.