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Copperas Cove High pharmacy students examine opioid crisis

Special to Leader-Press


Every 11 minutes, someone dies in the United States due to an opioid overdose. The abuse of OxyContin, other prescription pain relievers, and heroin are contributing to the crisis that is developing in Texas. With Texas flanking the border of Mexico, opioids, including heroin and Fentanyl, are making their way into Texas.

Copperas Cove High School pharmacy technician students are learning about prescription medications and investigating the opioid crisis.

“Through course preparation and through its incorporation of multiple activities relating to prescription medications, we were able to directly investigate the seriousness of the opioid crisis,” CCHS student Yun Choi said. “Sorting out each prescription had us look deeper into the class in which they belong, the side effects that could put medication dependents at risk, and those medications that have a high probability of addiction.”

Of the 49,000 people who died from opioids in 2017, about 30,000 of those deaths are attributed to Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a breakthrough pain medication that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl users can die mid-use if they take too much causing many overdose victims to die with them still having needles in their arms.

“By not only understanding the effects caused by the medication itself, but through direct discussion with our teacher about crisis conflict, we were also able to look into the factors that are not directly considered, such as prescription errors and malpractice in pharmacy settings,” Choi said. “Learning smaller details about the medication crises has given us to more ways to resolve the conflict, such as better practices in pharmacy settings and increasing the use of security.”

In 2017, Texas experienced more than 1,400 deaths from drug overdoses, and half of those overdose deaths were caused by opioids. This number is small in comparison to the big picture of the U.S. But in 2018, the numbers in Texas climbed to 4,943 deaths, nearly quadrupling year over year, due to drug overdoses with half of those deaths being from opioids.  

CCHS Pharmacy Technician student Brandon Barker said he and fellow studnets did not understand the seriousness of the problem of opioid overdoes until studying the catastrophic crisis class.

 “We had to sort out drugs as a learning activity to give us a sense of what it is like in the many pharmacies around the United States. We sorted the drugs alphabetically by generic name, as per pharmacy standards. But while we were doing that, we got a sense of the prescription drugs in their entirety,” Barker said. “We understood some drugs had warning labels that helped to inform the patient taking the drug, the pharmacy technician, and the pharmacist themselves. From further discussion in class and a classmate’s presentation on Fentanyl, an opioid drug, we found there is a major opioid crisis striking the nation. For future pharmacy technicians, like ourselves, we must ensure all proper safety and documentation procedures are done correctly, and we must be vigilant to this pandemic plaguing the many communities of our nation and in Texas.”


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