Students, Community Members Share Experiences, Talk Stigma Of Opioids

A virtual meeting between students from Cuba High School, law enforcement and community organizations tackled how opioids affect children and the stigmatism that comes with it.

Hosted by Dr. Sean Siebert, the nearly hour-long discussion on Dec. 16 saw students open up about their experience with opioids.

Siebert is working with the Meramec Regional Planning Commission on a youth opioid project through the US Department of Justice that is being considered as a “best practice” throughout the country.

Siebert worked with a student group at CHS on a community conversation about the opioid epidemic, the stigmatism of it and how to make addiction more socially acceptable to discuss.

“Stigmatism is a big issue,” Siebert said. “There are barriers society has put up on people working to find their way back. We’ve had conversations on how to de-stigmatize from a youth perspective.”

Lauren Weber is a senior at CHS. She shared her experience of finding a person passed out on the bathroom floor at Subway.

“It was sad to see someone sitting there, lifeless,” she said. 

Aana Tatkenhorst grew up around opioid addiction. Tatkenhorst said her mother battled a pill addiction.

“It was hard to watch her fall apart,” said Tatkenhorst.

Christa Harmon of the Mid-Missouri Addiction Awareness Group (MAAG) also spoke. MAAG has been as visible as any other group in the area in bringing awareness, regularly holding group walks.

Harmon found her daughter unconscious on the floor of her home.

“I thought she was dead,” she said.

Sheriff Darin Layman said he and his deputies deal with the emotional toll as well.

“We are not walking robots,” Layman said. “We see (opioid overdoses) monthly and it has a negative effect.”

Layman said they see the struggle and relationships are developed with people who become addicted.

“I carry a lot of weight,” he said.

Becky Losing of Meramec Regional Planning Commission is a recovering addict. Now a substance abuse counselor, she lost her children nine years ago and being on both sides, she said people have to put their guard up when it comes to addicts.

“You have to protect yourself from the emotional damage an addict will cause you,” she said.

“You’ll never heal from or forget it,” Harmon said. “But you don’t stop talking about it because it might make a difference.”

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