San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan, joins us in studio. We continue our discussion on the opioid epidemic, this time talking to DA Stephan, who recently pushed through statewide legislation regarding opioid education. We talk statistics and get further information on how you can get involved in reducing this stigma and educating your children and those around you.
Introducing Summer Stephan
Today on the show we are joined by San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan. Summer has been a Prosecutor in San Diego for 27 years and has a balanced approach. She is educated in crime, and she has a progressive take on how low-level drug offenders are treated as well as a focus on keeping young people out of the Juvenile Justice System. She runs an office of more than 1,000 employees with a budget of around 350 million dollars.
Summer rose through the ranks in her field and had the honor to be elected as the DA. She helps victims of crime, case by case, and hopes to protect families on a wider spectrum. She is passionate about issues such as human trafficking, the exploitation of children, and elder abuse. But what has really struck a chord more recently with her is the abuse of opiates
A Lethal Drug In Disguise
The opiate issue at hand is killing so many young people. In most cases, it starts off with something we would deem as “normal”; a prescribed pain killer. When the prescription runs out, people turn to a dangerous elicit way of seeking more, which is buying it off the streets. To cut their costs, drug dealers are lacing these “opiates” with a lethal drug known as fentanyl. This counterfeit pill is basically 1-2 mg of fentanyl in a baking soda shell. Fentanyl laced opiates, as well as opiates in their natural form, are causing more deaths than drugs like heroine and meth. Awareness and understanding of this national epidemic is crucial and could potentially save lives.
Nikki’s daughter recently had surgery to repair her ACL and was prescribed Oxycodone. Her friend who works as a pharmacist advised to have her daughter take the maximum dosage to keep her comfortable. Nikki was unaware of the potential ramifications taking a drug just for something as simple as a surgery could have, because she was not told.
Laws To Make A Change
Not being aware of the potentials of taking prescribed pain medicine is something Summer takes seriously. She helped bring in new legislation to the state of California. Starting in January 2019, this new law requires doctors to disclose to parents of minors the risk of opiates and offer them an alternative. The pain level that people are usually in only require doses of these opiates for 1 to 2 days so why are we being given 30-day supplies when studies show that after 5 days, most people will become addicted?
“Addiction doesn’t make someone a bad person and addiction is beyond normal human control. We want for people to not feel that stigma and shame and be able to seek help but we also want to prevent these addictions from happening in the first place.” 72,000 Americans died each year from drug overdoses. 50,000 of that is from opiates. That death toll is larger than deaths from car accidents, homicides, and gang warfare. Every state needs to have protection laws!
New York has a similar law that requires that all labels on all opioid prescription bottles must state that it can cause an overdose as well as addiction. It also requires that athletic programs learn about opiate risk and sign waivers to educate the team and parents about opioid prescription usage, as well as doctors not prescribing without providing risks.
We need to encourage schools to bring back prevention and health education. The goal is to have effective education that is not morality or judgement based because that does not work with children. We need it to be more health and fact based. Let’s use nicotine as an example. Nicotine use in kids has decreased by 50% through education, awareness, and constant messaging. Unfortunately, you see companies trying to gain that market back with vapes, etc. These companies care about the money not the consumer. Same with drug dealers. They’re not concerned about the repercussions this has on people which is why we need to be and we need to act upon it.
Speak up. We need to break the stigma and the silence. If you or someone you know is in need of substance abuse help please call:
1-800-662-4367 or 1-800-662-HELP
For 24/7 assistance
For more information about Summer, visit the San Diego District Attorney website.