Hiler theater saw a full house when people came in large numbers to support the Hope Stems exhibit in Wilmeth Active Learning Center unveiled by Vice Adm. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General.

“Stigma is the biggest killer. It’s what keeps people in the shadows,” Adams said as he began his speech on combating the opioid crisis.

Adams, who is a certified anesthesiologist, shared the measures his office is taking to fight the opioid epidemic. He spoke about his days in med school as he reminisced on the time when he was directed by his seniors to prescribe opioids to his patients, and failing to do so would result in him not getting paid.

He went on to say that if prescription opioids are taken away from people who have legitimate emotional, physical or mental health issues they would switch over to another drug like meth or heroin.

“I share my family’s struggle to show that addiction can happen to anyone. Even the brother, uncle and family members of the United States Surgeon General,” Adams said after sharing the stories of his uncle and brother, both of whom struggled with addiction.

He warned the students of other lethal drugs like fentanyl, which when pressed into pills strongly resembles Valium.

He demonstrated the administration process of naloxone to the crowd as he explained the importance of its prompt execution on a victim of overdose. Furthermore, he emphasized that sometimes just the administration of naloxone is not enough, and one must always call 911 post administration to ensure that the victim does not slip back into respiratory arrest.

He shared his digital postcard with the audience, which consisted of the steps that anyone can take in response to the opioid epidemic.

Adams emphasized how important it is to support those who are trying to recover from addiction.

An example he mentioned was creating a sober environment in dorms where recovering students can stay to prevent succumbing to temptation. He said college is a place where people look to begin a new life which is all the more reason for other students to support them in their new lease of life.

“My motto is actually ‘Better health through better partnerships,' you know, and you all truly exemplify that motto through the work that you’ve done to put together this amazing event here today,” Dr. Adams said during his speech.

His speech was followed by a 20-minute question and answer session that was moderated by the Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Eric Barker. This was followed by a short video on combating the opioid crisis made by Bailey Surprenant, a student of the College of Liberal Arts.

The event was attended by Indiana State Senator, Jim Meritt, Mayor Tony Roswarski, Mayor John Dennis and Dr. Kristina Box, who is the Indiana State Health Commissioner among other dignitaries. Several students from the Colleges of Pharmacy and Nursing came in large numbers to show their support.

“What resonated with me the most was Dr. Adams passion and his own personal encounters with the addiction that runs in his family,” said Kate Oetting, a P1 student at the College of Pharmacy, who attended the event. “Like he said, it’s not just the people coming from ‘bad’ families that are affected. It can affect anyone.”

The event ended in him unveiling the Hope Stems exhibit at WALC and plucking out a black poppy that signified the de-stigmatization of seeking help.

He was followed by the Swan and Zoss families, the families of victims of opioid overdose, who too removed poppies from the brain flower in memory of their sons Michael Zoss and Curtis Swan.

The interactive Hope Stems exhibit will be displayed at WALC until Thursday.

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