In 2020, over 93,000 Americans lost their lives to a drug overdose — more people than the capacity of most professional football stadiums.
These numbers illustrate a worsening drug overdose epidemic and a record for the biggest number of drug overdoses ever recorded in a yearlong period.
Organizers behind Reverse the Silence, a campaign to raise awareness of opioid overdose, are sharing statistics like these and speaking out about signs someone may be at risk for overdose to help try to save lives.
For the effort, Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller and influencer Dani Schaffer are telling their stories about how opioid overdose has affected them personally.
Waller, 28, told PA Homepage that four years ago he almost overdosed on a pill laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that is 50 to 100 times as powerful as morphine, and failed his second drug test. He had been taking opioids since he was 15, and since then had been arrested three times and had a suspension in college as a result of the addiction. “It put my NFL career on its deathbed,” Waller, who is now sober, told PA Homepage.
Waller has dedicated his time to raising awareness of this disease when he is not on the football field. “Reverse the Silence means no longer remaining quiet and allowing others to dictate the narrative for those of us who are living with addiction or are on the journey to recovery,” Waller said in a press release.
“I’m telling my story because too many lives have been lost to overdoses.”Ninety-one percent of opioid overdoses are accidental, and in 44 percent of overdose cases a bystander was present but did not administer life-saving, overdose-reversing naloxone. Similar to having a fire extinguisher nearby in the event of a fire, the organizers of Reverse the Silence recommend having naloxone accessible in the event a loved one experiences drug overdose. The drug can be administered as a nasal spray or injected into the veins.
Risk factors for opioid overdose include living with concurrent chronic conditions and mixing opioids with sedatives such as alcohol, according to the campaign. Of the 49 million people prescribed opioids in the United States, over 18 million are considered high risk.
In a moving blog post, Schaffer shares that her brother Scott Anthony Molinari died after accidental overdose with fentanyl in 2018. He was 33 years old. “Reverse the Silence means we are no longer going to remain quiet — we need to talk and lessen the stigma associated with opioid use and overdoses,” Schaffer wrote. “As a big sister who lost her best friend, I will share Scott’s story to help raise awareness. Because this can happen to anyone … and being aware of the dangers can help.”