Billboard raises awareness of the opioid epidemic’s impact on youth


AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – Perhaps you’ve seen the billboard as you drive over the South End Bridge from Springfield to Agawam. It asks, “Would you give your child heroin for a sports injury?” It’s an alarming question, but one that is now asked, as the focus of the opioid epidemic expands from adults to children.

22News spoke with a young recovering addict from Chicopee. He wanted to stay anonymous but said,

“Pain medications turn you into a completely different person. You just want to feel yourself.” He continued, “I was prescribed pain medicine that was pretty strong and once the doctor cuts you off of those, I don’t care what anyone’s going to tell you, you are going to be addicted to those, to those pain medicines because those are some strong heavy pain medicines that they give you.”

He’s been sober since December of 2015, but said it was a difficult journey.

According to a study published Monday in Pediatrics journal, babies were exposed to opioids because they were within reach of them. Teenagers were taking opioids on purpose. But children ages 6 through 12 were poisoned by opioids because they were prescribed too high a dose.

Baystate Children’s Hospital Pediatrician Dr. John O’Reilly told 22News doctors are now trying to avoid prescribing opioids, opting for Tylenol or other similar medicines for pain management instead. “Those kids that say in the past might have gotten a codeine or some mild opioid, those kids are turning out to be at increased risk of opioid addiction later on,” Dr. O’Reilly said.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in just the month of February, there were 51 opioid-related calls from Massachusetts.

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