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Students Take On Opioid Crisis
Students Take On Opioid Crisis
Posted on 04/13/2018
Students discuss issues related to the opioid epidemic during a summit at WCU - Biltmore Campus on Thursday.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

Buncombe County Schools students rise to the challenges facing their communities. On Thursday, they took an unflinching look at the opioid epidemic that has swept the nation.

At the first-ever Student Opioid Summit, held at Western Carolina University’s Biltmore Park Campus, BCS high-schoolers joined others from Asheville City Schools and Madison County Schools to dive deep into the physiological and psychological drivers of addiction. They heard from community members living in long-term addiction recovery, learned healthy strategies to deal with stress, and they developed ideas to fight the opioid crisis.

“I learned a lot,” said Charles D. Owen High School (OHS) sophomore Eli Colson. “It was great to hear from people with first-hand experience with addiction to opioids. Because without that you don’t really know what it’s like.”

Students pose in front of a logo wall at the Student Opioid Summit.“It makes it a lot more real than hearing about it from a teacher or counselor,” added fellow OHS sophomore Zeb Lord.

Lord said he didn’t realize how many opioid addictions start with a legitimate prescription from a doctor. The summit has changed the way he thinks about opioid addiction.

“I always thought it was getting in with a bad crowd and doing this and doing that, and eventually you’re doing heroin,” he said. “But really it’s everyday people getting injured, getting put on opioids, and not being able to get off of them. It can happen to anybody, and you might not be able to tell that they’re dealing with it. I think we need to talk about it more.”

“This summit was about honesty and openness,” said Wendy Jensen, school counselor at Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. Discovery Academy (NDA). “I appreciate the fact that we’re not just saying ‘kids, don’t do drugs.’ We’re talking about what changes that happen in the brain during the development of addiction. We’re talking about how everyday stresses can open the door to irresponsible behavior. And we’re talking about the importance of connections with peers, mentors, and other support structures.”

After several informative morning sessions, the students held a “world café” – high-schoolers, teachers, and nurses from different schools and professional programs mixed into small groups and discussed their reactions to the learning sessions and ideas to mitigate the crisis. They had many ideas.

“We need to promote all these healthy ways to manage stress,” said NDA freshman Perry Berlin. “As high-schoolers, we’re stressed out, and we could be turning to drug abuse. Instead, we can turn to music, reading, athletics – there are many options.”

Colson pointed to the need for stronger prescription oversight.

“There need to be better preventative methods, better ways of prescribing so doctors don’t overprescribe and these pills don’t end up on the street,” he said.

“Awareness is key,” added NDA junior Lillian Chilton. “A lot of kids grow up just hearing ‘drugs are bad,’ but when you understand the effects, when you’re more informed you can make better decisions.”


Student Opioid Summit contributing partners and organizers included Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, RHA Prevention Resource Centers, Buncombe County FJC, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Dept., Sunrise Community Wellness & Recovery, Buncombe County Government, Madison County Schools, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Buncombe County HHS, MAHEC School Nursing, VAYA, Buncombe County Painkiller Task Force, Partnership for Substance Free Youth, and Western Carolina University.

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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