Heroin Task Force representative addresses rising issue of opioid abuse

There is no doubt that, as a country, we have reached a heroin epidemic. With a 30 percent rise in overdoses in 2015 alone, heroine currently causes more deaths than gun homicides and car accidents, according to the Boston Globe. 

To address this epidemic, Geneseo invited Kym Laube from the New York State Heroin Task Force to speak about heroin, cocaine and other recreational drugs on Monday March 27. 

A mother of two and a recovering alcoholic, Laube has dedicated her life to preventing teens and college students from abusing drugs. Her organization, Humans Understanding & Growth Services, trains high school students to become leaders in their community and to help others to avoid drugs and alcohol. 

While the title of the talk was “DOPE: A frank conversation about heroin, cocaine and other drugs of recreation and addiction,” Laube mentioned heroin only twice and did not speak about cocaine at all. 

Instead, Laube focused on the impact of alcohol and marijuana as gateway drugs. While her information was well researched and her work impressive, the talk did not explore what it advertised. Students hoping for a lecture about the heroin epidemic in the United States and its implications on our nation’s future were, sadly, disappointed. 

Choosing instead to focus on the gradual accumulation of drug use that leads to addiction, Laube introduced the four sides of the drug addiction square: friends, school, community and individual. If any of these sides break, she said, kids are likely to abuse drugs. 

For instance, if a student comes from a good home, community and school, but has a peer group in which drugs are commonly accepted, their risk skyrockets. The same can be said of drugs commonly accepted in a community, a family history of drug use or even individual traits like depression or anxiety. It’s a matter of a few factors that lead to the beginning of drug use, which gradually develops into addiction. 

“No one starts out saying they want to be addicted to heroin,” Laube said. “It’s not some big, scary thing. When you begin to experiment, it doesn’t start out as something horrifying.” 

And therein lies the danger. From these seemingly unthreatening beginnings, addiction can blossom. 

One in nine people suffer from an addiction, and 90 percent of those people start in high school. Laube said that we need to work harder to support kids from eighth to 10th grade, as this is when drug and alcohol use first sets in. While these statistics are scary enough, 90 percent of people who use drugs and alcohol will never get help. 

Addiction also drives people to perform scary actions. The desperate need to get high can trump all other things and can lead to actions that hurt or alienate loved ones, Laube said. Addiction, Laube said, takes and takes from you. 

To illustrate how harmful addiction is, Laube handed out 12 index cards to each audience member. She then asked students to write down the names of three important people, three of their prized possessions, three things they love doing and three things they like about themselves. 

Next, she told the story of a young person becoming addicted to drugs, and slowly but surely all but one card was jettisoned. The purpose of this exercise? To show how addiction steals from a person. It does not ask you what you’d like to give—it just takes. 

After answering questions from the audience, she ended with a poignant question. 

“How can I best the best health outcomes now, and put off what I want to do in this moment for what I want down the road?” 

Laube encouraged students to think about this question when they make choices regarding drugs and alcohol.