WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Governor Wolf signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 Opioid Disaster Declaration, which aims to help Pennsylvania fight the opioid and heroin epidemic, Wednesday.
Meanwhile, there’s a brand new awareness campaign in the battle against accidental opioid overdoses that launched just last week.
The ‘Reverse the Silence’ campaign has a couple of key advocates, a former congresswoman, and an NFL star who shared his own struggles with opioid misuse.
“I had it made, living my dream playing professional football,” says Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
But opioid misuse nearly derailed everything for the 28-year-old Waller. Using opioids since he was 15, Waller hit rock bottom four years ago when he failed his second drug test and nearly overdosed on a pill possibly laced with fentanyl.
“It put my NFL career on its deathbed, with a suspension in college, the NFL, been arrested three times. So, I was so quick to cling to that even though everything in my life was falling apart,” said Waller, who is now an opioid abuse awareness advocate.
Free of addiction for several years, Waller has become an advocate for sobriety. He’s now teaming up with former California congresswoman Mary Bono to lend his voice to the launch of a new public awareness campaign called ‘Reverse the Silence’.
“People are afraid to talk about this disease,” said Bono, “Families are afraid to talk about this disease and we’re trying to change that.”
The CDC blames drug overdoses for 90,000 deaths in a 12-month period ending in November 2020, the most for any 12-month period ever recorded. It’s a problem Bono blames largely on stigma which she describes as ‘horrific’ triggering silence that impedes treatment.
“Substance use disorder is a disease. It is not a moral failing. And to work with this disease like you would any other disease, you wouldn’t try to cold turkey diabetes or cold turkey cancer. You would seek help and that’s especially true with an opioid use disorder, too,” said Bono.
Bono and Waller urge open communication about opioid misuse and curbing the disease which costs 250 lives a day.
“What do we do to save these lives of people that are fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, cousins. This thing needs to change,” said Waller.
The ‘Reverse the Silence’ campaign launched just last week.
Head to reversesilence.org to learn more about it and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid misuse.