by Sarah Eastland
Every year at Souhegan the senior class takes part in year long multi-lateral projects which combine all the skills they’ve learned in their four years of high school, complex thinking, research skills, public speaking, and self sufficiency. This year’s projects range from rebuilding a motorcycle, to leading a backpacking trip through Arizona. Senior projects are uniquely personal but for one, Amanda Watson, this project hits a little closer to home.
Amanda Watson centered her project on the growing opioid epidemic in New Hampshire and how it affects families and the community as a whole. In 2016 fatal overdoses from heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids neared 500 in New Hampshire, and in the past five years the state has witnessed a 191% increase in overdoses from this class of drugs. “I decided that this was the topic I wanted when my brother was beginning his recovery [from opioid addiction] and I started to notice how uneducated people were about it”, said Watson.
For some this deeply personal connection to a subject such as drug addiction may have made the research process harder but this was not the case for Watson,“…it made my research much easier but there were still some shocking facts and it made me think a lot about the gravity of what could’ve happened to my brother”.
Through her outside expert, Watson was invited to take part in a community discussion hosted by WMUR about what it will take to curb the heroin epidemic at the local level. The panel featured DEA agent Jon Delena, recovery specialist Tracey Brachert, Dr. Shazia Savul from Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and four high school students from across the state, including Watson.
Many feel that the only way to end the crisis in New Hampshire is through a grass-roots campaign, which starts with education. During the panel Watson stated, “we need to know what can happen to us if we decide to do it… [we need] the education vs. ‘just say no.’”, a sentiment the others mirrored. Panel members agreed that a true education on opioids and drugs, rather than ‘just saying no’ needs to start in middle school if real change is wanted .
What does Watson want people to take away from her project? “We need to be compassionate. People need to understand that addiction is a disease and they need our help, not our judgement.”
If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid or prescription drug abuse please contact the New Hampshire Statewide Addiction Crisis Line at 1-844-711-4357.
You can see the WMUR community panel here, http://www.wmur.com/article/live-on-facebook-at-7-pm-high-schoolers-and-opioids/9209700