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ODU’s Center for Global Health Tackling Drug Addiction with Intervention Programs in Schools

By Noell Saunders

Virginia's opioid addiction crisis is getting worse.

Three people die every day in Virginia from opioid overdoses, and more than two dozen are treated in emergency rooms. Recently, the state's health commissioner declared it a public emergency.

To help tackle the issue, the Center for Global Health at Old Dominion University is doing early intervention projects at schools in Hampton Roads.

Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci, director of the Center for Global Health, says opioid addiction is not just a public health concern.

"We see an individual problem that is really impacting an entire community," she said. "This crisis not only requires intervention from health agencies but government and law enforcement agencies as well."

For the second time, the Center for Global Health staff will talk to middle school students about the effect of drugs and the importance of smart decision-making.

The school visits will occur during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, from Jan. 23 to 29. Staff members and students will break into groups to answer questions and play a game.

"This is a great service learning project for our students. They need to communicate and connect with communities. This is something many of them will be doing in their future careers," Akpinar-Elci said.

Addiction is a complex disease, affecting the brain and body. Public health professionals look at it through two lenses -- genetics and the environment.

"We look at all factors that could be linked to the addiction, like family, education, social, mental or economic problems. We look to not only address the issue but to create a safer environment for chronic users," Akpinar-Elci said.

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