Yahoo has a story about Drew Gintis, a high school wrestler who started taking Oxycodone as a senior. His doctor prescribed it to him after a shoulder injury that ended his wrestling career. At 21, he died from a fentanyl overdose.
That these two things are related is all but a foregone conclusion. In 2015, the same year Gintis died, 52,000 Americans died of an overdose. In two-thirds of those cases, the drugs were opioids. The connection between high school athletics and prescriptions to potential gateway drugs like Oxycodone or Ocycontin is understudied but increasingly well-established.
Tessie Castillo, the advocacy and communications coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, believes Gintis was a victim of this connection. “What we see a lot, over and over again, is people getting injured and they go to the doctor and they’re prescribed pills and that’s the start of their addiction,” she told Yahoo. “It’s very connected to sports.”
Gintis’s mother, Marsha, seems to agree. She recently spoke at the North Carolina state legislature on behalf of the STOP act, targeting the over-prescription of pain killers. In recounting Gintis’s story she said, “Like so many others who now struggle with substance-abuse disorders, a prescription for opioids after suffering an athletic injury served as the catalyst for his downward spiral and ultimately his death.”
In this context, it’s weird to see the DEA latching onto the story with this tweet:
The DEA is quote-tweeting its own affiliate account—one that pays lip service to drug prevention and does mention the wrestling injury—to unsuccessfully (their typo’d link leads to an unsecure site) promote their website about scary scary drugs. It’s just a tweet, but it manages to be insensitive and ignorant at the same time. Blaming Gintis’s death on a one-time decision to take up drugs ignores the greater context of his tragedy, and oversimplifies a growing epidemic in ways that only make it harder to properly understand and deal with it.