CLEMSON — Clemson University’s public health sciences department will host a symposium Tuesday, April 10, on the opioids crisis. “Problems & Solutions, Abuse & Addiction” will be at 6:45 p.m. in McKissick Theatre in the Hendrix Student Center.

The symposium will feature public health science students and keynote speaker Rich Jones, CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) in Greenville, who will discuss various drug addictions and abuses, including opioids.

“About 20 years ago, the American Pain Society began to push the notion that pain was the fifth vital sign and that physicians should always assess pain and prescribe painkilling medicines whenever pain was present,” said public health sciences professor Lee Crandall. “Around 2000, the pharmaceutical companies really began to push opiates and synthetic opiates in particular as the solution to chronic pain, and in many instances argued that the risk of addiction was very, very low.”Poster for Problems & Solutions, Abuse & Addiction symposium

Crandall said research now shows long-term exposure to opioids sometimes leads to addiction. Many physicians refused to prescribe the drugs and that resulted in an even bigger problem for some addicted patients.

“They switched over to heroin because it was cheaper than street-level synthetic opiates,” Crandall said.

“Opioids affect every demographic,” said professor Lu Shi of public health sciences. “The group that tends to be hit the hardest tend to be white, middle-aged men.”

Shi said opioid addiction is most prevalent in rural areas. He said the Midwest and Northeast experience the worst of the crisis.

Women who are prescribed opioids for pain relief and become pregnant put their unborn children at risk.

“What we’re looking at is a very specific condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome,” said professor Rachel Mayo, also of public health sciences. “These are newborns; born dependent on whatever opioid mom was taking.”

Mayo said children born with the syndrome exhibit extreme withdrawal symptoms and also have a high risk of death.

The Trump Administration recently created a website to collect and show stories about Americans who overcame opioid addiction. The move follows Mr. Trump’s outline of a plan to combat the epidemic and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release of new numbers on the opioid crisis.

The report shows the number of overdose visits to hospital emergency rooms rose significantly in 2017. It also shows 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.