Atop Andover Hill, it is Wellness Week. Mindfulness will be recommended, the benefits of sleep will be lauded, but nobody will tell us that opiate addiction is ravaging the picturesque town that surrounds our campus.
Many people become hooked on opiates after being prescribed opioids, such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin, for pain relief. When their prescription runs dry, their bodies, still craving opiates, turn to a cheaper, more accessible option: heroin. The heroin sold in the town of Andover is particularly dangerous as much of it is cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 100 times as powerful as morphine, according to the Andover Police Department.
But the damages of addiction reach far beyond the addict. Families pour enormous amounts of money into detox and rehab programs and the road to recovery is grueling. Relapses are seen as an intrinsic part of the process, as heroin keeps such a tight grasp on an individual. The average addict will relapse three times before getting clean, if they ever do.
In only the past year, Andover has seen a dramatic increase in heroin-related overdoses and deaths. In 2014, there were 21 overdoses resulting in two deaths. In 2015, 50 people in Andover overdosed on heroin, and of these, nine people died. Andover’s opioid-related death rate was 26.5 per 100,000 residents in 2015, nearly three times the national average in 2014, which was 9.3 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people. The Andover Police Department estimates that these levels will remain steady for at least five years.
Andover Cares, an event run this past fall by the Rotary Club of Andover, sought to raise awareness about the town’s metastasizing heroin epidemic. Phillips Academy pledged to be a Gold Sponsor of the event, donating $1000, but didn’t take the step to inform its students of this donation and this cause.
Phillips Academy cannot ignore an issue so severe and so close to home. It is too important to shy away from. We participate in mindfulness exercises as part of Wellness Week, oblvious to people right in our own town who suffer from heroin addictions. As a community within the town of Andover, Phillips Academy has a responsibility to shed light on this problem, what causes it and what can be done about it. We can run from this reality no longer.