Shining light on opioid epidemic

“It feels like your soul is floating outside of your body.” That is a quote from my 15-year-old son while talking about the feeling he got from taking the drug Percocet. Stone had never taken a prescribed pain medication before his recent surgery to correct several tears and a fracture in his shoulder after he severely injured it in a high school wrestling match. He had barely taken any Tylenol or Motrin over his 15 years, which is what led to our discussion on the effects of the pain medication. Percocet is an opioid. It is one of many drugs classified as opioids, which also includes hydrocodone and fentanyl. All opioids come with a high risk for addiction and dependence, even if taken as directed by a doctor. Due to their sedative effects on the part of the brain, which regulates breathing, opioids in high doses present the potential for respiratory depression, even causing respiratory failure and death. Stone only took the drug for three days after surgery, but it sure did help him sleep during those first few very uncomfortable nights. He did not quite understand just why we would not let him take it after that just to help him rest. He also did not understand the impact those type drugs have had on our community. Opioid addiction has become so prevalent in not only Walker County, but throughout our nation, that it is being referred to as an epidemic. Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death of Americans under 50, with two-thirds of those deaths coming from opioids. In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from overdoses. That number was up 21 percent from the year before. Once 2017 numbers are released, they will be even higher than 2016. While the Daily Mountain Eagle has covered many stories concerning the opioid issue in our community, our editorial staff doesn’t feel like it has done a very good job of doing our part to help curb this problem. Over the coming months, it is our hope to change that. While our plan is to cover the opioid epidemic from a variety of angles throughout the remainder of 2018, we want to begin our coverage by showing the “Faces of Addiction.” Starting today, we are asking family members and friends who have lost loved ones due to opioid addiction to please contact us. We would like photographs of those loved ones, and we would be honored if a handful of our readers would share their stories of loss so that it may help others who have similar experiences. We also hope these stories could help play a role in pushing a second thought in the mind of someone considering these drugs or in the early stages of an addiction so they might get help. Addiction impacts every person in our community in some form. An addiction may lead someone to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do, and that is unfortunate, but we do not in any way want to embarrass families who have suffered a loss due to addiction. We want to treat those loved ones with respect and tell their stories in an effort to show that it can happen to anyone, no matter their race, religion, socioeconomic background or any other factor.

Anyone interested in talking to a newspaper staff member or to simply send in a photograph of a loved one who has lost their life due to addiction, please contact myself at the information below or Jennifer Cohron, our features editor, at We want to collect as many photos as possible in our attempt to show the different backgrounds that are affected by addiction. That recent chat with my 15-year-old was a reminder to me that as families we should be talking about this subject more. Our newspaper feels this is a subject our community needs to talk about more.  It is time we start having those talks. James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or