Everett Meredith Middle School held an assembly about drug overdose awareness Feb. 14 for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

The Appoquinimink School District is warning young students about the dangers of opioids.

Everett Meredith Middle School held an assembly about drug overdose awareness Feb. 14 for sixth, seventh and eighth graders, focusing on drug use, addiction and vaping.

Joe Whitacker, a recovering drug addict, said he became addicted to drugs after he got into a skateboarding accident. He broke his right collarbone and left wrist and had to have an operation. He said he got hooked on the pain medication.

Whitacker said he started selling drugs to afford his own drug addiction. He ended up in prison.

“I’ve been pretty much trying to do the right thing ever since then to make up for doing the wrong thing the first time around,” he said.

Whitacker said he is now working to get his real estate license, which he said he should get later this year.

Although Whitacker was able to survive, not all have been as lucky.

Gina Augustine, a reading specialist at Everett Meredith, shared the story of her older brother, who died from an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin at 26 years old.

She said he started experimenting with marijuana and other drugs on the back of the school bus in eighth grade. It didn’t take long for him to become addicted and for him to start using heroin.

“You might sit here today thinking this will never happen to me or my family. I have been in your shoes thinking the exact same thing,” Augustine said. “We will always have a missing piece. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and birthday party doesn’t feel the same without him.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Augustine warned students about drug dealers who mix it with other drugs to make more money. 

It takes a lesser amount of fentanyl to get high, making it a cheaper option, according to the NIDA.

“When you go into buying drugs, you don’t know what’s in there, and that’s actually why my brother died.” Augustine said.

Sgt. Scott Saunders from the Middletown Police Department said the best way to prevent drug addiction is to never start. He told students to “be their own person” and say no when their friends ask them to try any drugs, whether it be marijuana or an e-cigarette.

“Don’t let anyone influence you to do something that is wrong,” he said.

Saunders said the police responded to more than 50 overdoses in the Middletown area last year. According to data the school presented, about 400 people in Delaware died due to a drug overdose in 2019. 

He showed the students Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse the effects of opiates. He said Middletown officers carry it around every day just like a gun and Taser.

“It’s a sad thing in society today when we say we have to use it, but that’s where we are at,” he said.