By: Danielle Powall
It was February 10th, 2015 I was sitting in an organic chemistry lecture listening to my professor go on and on about something I honestly wasn’t that interested in. As I was checking the time, I noticed that my mom was calling me. Naturally, I let the call go to voicemail and sent her the text “I’m in class, is it important?” knowing that every time I’ve sent this text to her I immediately get a response back “No babes, call me after class” but this time she responded “Yes, call me asap.” A slight panic arose over me, wondering what it could be about. I stepped into the hall to call my mother. She answered the phone with a calm tone and told me that my cousin Nicholas had had an overdose, I initially wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, so I paused and asked if he was in the hospital. She replied with “no honey, I’m sorry he’s gone” as she said those words I heard her voice trail off as she was about to cry. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I remember leaning on the wall I was standing next to, not believing the words my mother had just spoken to me.
In the days to follow losing Nick there were a whirlwind of emotions that passed through my head. I was devastated over the fact of losing someone I loved so much, I was heartbroken by the hurt it caused my family but I was also angry. I was angry that this happened, that these tears and broken hearts quite possibly could have been prevented. I felt regret, running through the memories in my head trying to see if there was a point where I should have said something, reached out more or tried to help. But that’s what you do when you lose someone you love, you look back and try to see if you could have done something differently. The unfortunate reality is that the time had passed and no matter how badly I wanted to go back in time and change things I couldn’t. What I learned I can do, is try to help others from feeling the same gut wrenching pain that my family felt.
You see, Nicholas’s story didn’t start with his death, it started with a happy kid, who enjoyed life and those around him. He had good parents and a loving family whose support for him never wavered no matter the circumstance. He wasn’t perfect, but who could say they are? As a young adult, Nick starting working for a fortune 500 company in shipping and receiving. Due to his work, he had been experiencing some lower back pain. He expressed this to his friend’s mother who then offered him the rest of her opioid prescription pain killers to treat his back. This is where Nick’s struggle with addiction truly began. Nick was blessed with all the components of a happy life before he got addicted. I watched Nick suffer through this disease. I saw how he felt helpless, how desperately he wanted to be better but couldn’t, how hard he tried to fight it, yet continued to go back. When Nick initially became addicted my family tried to do everything in their power to help him from counseling, detox centers and long term residential facilities, but quickly learned that the resources will extremely limited.
This is where we come in, where nights like the NOPE candlelight vigil can make a difference, and our voices can help prevent another family from feeling the same way mine has. My family and I will forever have a hole in our hearts from losing Nicky way too soon, but like I said before, we can’t dwell on what we should have done, we can only focus on what we can do as pharmacists and as a community. Through collaborations like Generation Rx, you can make a difference, you can go out and educate the public. Tell them how easily prescription drugs can be misused or abused. Educate them on things like drug give back days, that could help prevent anyone from giving their old prescription medication to someone who wasn’t prescribed it. Help society transition from thinking that addiction is a choice and not a disease. Help them understand that our nation is experiencing an Opioid epidemic and it is taking our loved ones away from us. According to the Ohio Department of Health, on any given day in Ohio, eight people will pass away from a heroin overdose, just from heroin, not alcohol, not another illicit drug, heroin. It is a problem and it needs to be talked about. You can use your voice to make a difference and you should, because I never thought I would lose someone to this epidemic and let me tell you, it hurts like hell. So help me prevent another family from feeling the way mine does, go out and make a difference in your community and in our country, use your voice and together we can fight to help stop this epidemic.
Danielle Powall is a first year student pharmacist at The Ohio State University. She recently graduated from Ohio University where served as the pre-pharmacy club president for three years. Danielle currently serves as the P1 liaison for the Generation Rx Collaborate and the American Pharmacist Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists.