January 26, 2022

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Overdose Deaths Reached Record High as the Pandemic Spread’

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Featured article: “Overdose Deaths Reached Record High as the Pandemic Spread” by Roni Caryn Rabin

Early figures from the National Center for Health Statistics reveal that 100,000 Americans died of overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in April 2021. This number is up almost 30 percent from the year before. Administration officials and researchers are attempting to understand why this increase happened and what can be done to prevent future deaths from overdoses.

In this lesson, you will learn more about what recent research has revealed about overdoses in the United States and what people think should be done to address this public health crisis. Then, you will discuss your solutions to address this situation.

Note to teachers: Since this lesson deals with a sensitive topic, please preview it and the articles to make sure they are appropriate for your students.

Part 1: Reflection

In your journal, respond to the following questions:

  • What do you know about the opioid crisis in America?

  • How is addiction talked about in your community or at school, if it is talked about at all?

Part 2: Read and respond

Read the following excerpt from the article “‘The Drug Became His Friend’: Pandemic Drives Hike in Opioid Deaths,” and then respond to the questions below:

On the first Friday in June, Jefrey Cameron, 29, left his home around midnight to buy heroin. He had been struggling with addiction for seven years but had seemingly turned a corner, holding down a job that he loved at Basil’s Pizzeria, driving his teenage sister to the mall to go shopping and sharing a home with his grandmother. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

When he returned home that night and tried the product, it was so potent that he fell and hit his head in the bathroom. Mr. Cameron texted a friend soon after, saying that he had messed up and would go to a 12-step meeting with a friend that weekend.

“I promise I’m good and I can’t get in any more trouble tonight,” he wrote. “Sweet dreams, if you wake up before you hear from me definitely call me. The sooner I get up and into town the better.” When Mr. Cameron woke up, he used the rest of the powder — largely fentanyl, not heroin, his family would later learn — from a small bag with a bunny stamped on it. Less than five hours after he sent the text, his grandmother found him dead.

  • What feelings, thoughts or images come up for you after reading this excerpt?

  • What role do you think the pandemic had in Mr. Cameron’s death?

  • What do you know about fentanyl? Why do you think the author mentions it in the story?

Read the article, and then answer the following questions:

1. What are some of the possible causes of the increased number of overdose deaths during the past year, according to the article?

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