As a kid, I remember a classmate’s mom (a nurse) coming to my third-grade class to talk about the effects of smoking tobacco. She showed the class a pair of healthy lungs and compared those to the lungs of a smoker—the pretty drastic difference, as one can imagine. She showed pictures of celebrities smoking cigarettes’ to show us that companies will try to make it look “cool.” They even said the classic line, “It’ll be your best friend who peers pressure you.” I am sure many of you have participated in a similar presentation. Did it work?

While the attempt was noble, it was a bit dated or perhaps even sheltered. Where were the high school presentations on opioids and other hard drugs? Non-existent, which upsets me as someone who has lost multiple friends to overdoses. We may have referenced and defined drugs in health class, but that is not enough. I am not saying it would have changed anything, but what if it did? What if we showed the younger generations the life cycle of someone on drugs? We must show the unglamorous side of drugs and highlight that it is not uncommon for addicts to suffer from mental illness.

The tried and true answer is no, it did not. Why? Because while yes, cigarettes are nasty, they have become antiquated. They are not as “cool” as they once were. The evolution of technology has dated yet something else. What is popular now are e-cigarettes’ (ever heard of Juuling?) which are just as bad, if not worse. However, I am not here to talk about cigarettes.

Many addicts start to like you and me, just trying to get by and lessen the noise and evil in the world. However, when you get knocked down a few times and are unsure where to turn – drugs can feel like a viable option, but I promise you it is never worth it. It can help you escape from your feelings in the waking hours. People turn to drugs to numb the pain from undiagnosed or untreated mental illness and unresolved issues. Man, that first time is supposed to be as euphoric as they come, but after that, you constantly chase that same high for the rest of your life. Trust me; you have way too much to do in this life to go down that rabbit hole. This is not a healthy way to address those feelings or an undiagnosed mental illness.

If you haven’t watched Dopesick on Hulu, I recommend adding it to your queue. It explicitly spells out how Purdue Pharma relentlessly advertised Oxycontin, knowing it was highly addictive and fatal. They promised to reformulate – how do you think that went? Every year roughly 100,000 people die from opioid overdoses. That is disgusting, and there will never be an excuse for that. Purdue Pharma and other companies should have undoubtedly been at fault. Purdue Pharmacy even knew there was a history of abuse with opioids, and they covered it up to sell and make billions off of others’ pain and sadness. That is not humane, and they should be ashamed of themselves. Purdue Pharma and other companies – I am calling you out – you owe these loved ones a huge apology. It won’t make up for the loss, but it’s a start, not to mention the right thing to do. What is Purdue Pharma doing to help curb the opioid epidemic? Oh, that’s right, continuing to produce and push opioids. Pathetic.

To our friends who left us too soon, I am so sorry. I am sorry that you were lied to by a company like Purdue Pharma or felt you needed to seek solace from drugs. I wish I had let you know and made you feel like you could come to me without judgment. I’m sorry life was so hard on you that you thought you had no other option. I’m sorry. I miss you and will never forget you. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to opioids, please, visit this resource for immediate help. You are not alone, and we do not judge; we want to help you see that there are other ways to handle your mental health. We see you, and we are here for you. Remember, the most intelligent person in the room asks for help.