BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — High school students from across Western North Carolina recently got together to discuss opioids. It was the first student summit locally on opioid awareness.
The students, who came from multiple counties, spent a day away from school during the summit, but it was far from a day off. Each kid came to the table with varying degrees of knowledge about opioids.
"I personally know people who have passed from opioid overdoses. So, I felt like it was really important for us to get the word out and stop it, before it gets way out of hand," said Imani Mosley, an Asheville High senior.
"I personally have not come across somebody who's into opioids, but obviously it's a big problem at other schools. That's why we're here solving it," said Harrison Best, a freshman at T.C. Roberson.
"I know people who have overdosed. I know people who use, and it's not talked a lot about," North Buncombe sophomore Pruett Norris said. "It's very important to me to educate the general community about that."
"I was like, 'Opioids?' I had no clue really," said Ge'Kovie Jackson, a senior at T.C. Roberson.
Students spoke with and heard from a person in recovery. They learned about what opioid addiction can do to their hopes and dreams. They also shared how much of a problem opioid use is in their own schools.
"The big hope for me is that we can become more empathetic towards it. It's not talked a lot about. People will sort of mention it kind of casually, that so-and-so overdosed. It's reflected on briefly, but they're sent to the hospital, they come back and everything's fine," Norris said.
"It's prescribed by a doctor. Someone you trust, someone your family goes to, and you get addicted by taking them and not knowing it because it makes you feel good. That was really eye-opening to me. You don't know something's affecting you when it is. That was just like, 'Woah,'" Jackson said.
"It's not very common in high school students, but it's starting to be something that high school students are starting to pick up on because they've seen people older than them do it," Mosley said.
"It's a big problem and what we need to do is help those out who have been affected by opioids," Best said.
The students feel like they can make a difference by talking about the issue with people struggling.
"Reach out to them. Simply reach out, let them know you're there for them, and direct them into proper help," Best said.
"What I would like to talk about is to get away from that sort of aloof status when dealing with opioids," Norris said.
"Can I get you counseling? Can I show you a better way you could be going, and I just think that's a huge part of helping each other out, because when we're in the summit earlier today, it's not every man for himself, it's we as a human race," Jackson said.
Students at the summit created an action plan. MAHEC's school nurse supervisor said, ideally, students can return to a summit next year to share their work.
"It came out really nicely," Mosley said.
Buncombe County Commissioners already received an update last week on how the summit went.