Why would some of Utah’s most talented orchestra students make a music video about opioid addiction? Because this plague is a drug problem that is as prevalent in the suburbs as it is downtown.
The Lyceum Philharmonic at American Heritage School partnered with The Other Side Academy to tell the story of Lola Zagey who, 20 years ago, was a healthy teenager taking prescription opioids while recovering from kidney replacement surgery. That prescription was all it took to send Lola into a cycle of addiction, deceit and incarceration. And she’s one of the lucky ones — she survived.
Utah was the seventh-highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths from 2013-2015, according to the Utah Department of Health. We know that 142 Americans die every day from drug overdoses, including nearly one Utahn each day. Data from the Centers for Disease Control tell us that in 2016 alone, drug overdoses killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War.
So what can you and I do? First, we need to understand that this is not a back-alley, “Just Say No to Drugs” sort of drug crisis. As with Lola, addiction can start in the best families with adults or children simply addressing chronic pain or recovering from a necessary medical procedure. With that understanding, we can educate our communities, and especially our youths, about the dangers of opioids and create a narrative that removes the stigma currently attached to the medical condition known as addiction.
Second, we must use our talents to connect or reconnect. Whatever the addiction, connection fills a void that one way or another absolutely needs to be filled. Excellent research is being done about how connecting in meaningful ways with those around you is a key step in both addiction prevention and treatment. The young musicians from the Lyceum Philharmonic come from more than 40 different schools across Utah to use their talents to connect with and inspire victims and loved ones dealing with addiction.
As the “Amazing Grace” video shows, providing purpose and connection is a huge part of the rehabilitation process that helped Lola transition from a desperate student at a life-skills and vocational training program in Salt Lake City, like The Other Side Academy, to one of its inspiring leaders. Students connect to each other, reconnect to society and learn to connect with a better version of themselves. Who, in your sphere, needs connection? Who can you help find and pursue his or her unique purpose?
To the part of you that occasionally cries, “The only one who can help the addict is the addict,” or, “Addicts make their decisions and they can suffer the consequences,” the students and educators involved in making this message have this to say: Grace is about receiving the unearned, unmerited help we desperately need but do not deserve. Providing that grace to one in need is one of the most divine services we can provide and makes our reception of the same all the more amazing.