Prevention Plan Paper: Substance Abuse

by Lindsey Cunningham

According to the Center for Disease Control we are currently in “the worst drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history.” Substance use disorder has become a problem that impacts 1 in 3 families in the U.S. and the rise of opioid use has increased significantly. However, this epidemic isn’t lack of D.A.R.E. programs teaching kids to “Say ‘NO’ to drugs” it is the result of much deeper problems within today’s society. Now days, we cope with challenges the wrong way; we don’t know how to properly handle depression or anxiety and when faced with trials we would rather avoid through use of pills than attack it head on.

It is no wonder that so many families are affected by substance abuse because 1 in 5 12 year olds know where to get heroin and 1 in 5 college kids will take a prescription drug that isn’t prescribed to them. Drug overdoses killed 52,404 people in 2015 and was the leading cause of accidental deaths by far; the next was car accidents which killed 38,300. Of the 52,404 drug overdoses, 20,101 were prescription drugs and 12,990 were heroin. There is a young person dying every 8 minutes due to overdose and this epidemic is one that needs immediate action to prevent in people dying at such a young age.

This topic is of interest to me because of Cody’s Gift. Cody Marshall was a young kid out of Jefferson City, MO who was a loyal and trusting friend. The year after his high school graduation he worked and saved money with plans to attend technical school while the rest of his buddies went to college. He was working temporary jobs here and there in order to afford his schooling, but was frustrated, depressed, and unhappy with his life so he turned to drugs to help cope with those feelings. He denied that any substance abuse was happening and even visited a specialist regarding treatment, but continued to deny needing help. Cody’s parents came home on September 25, 2011 to find Cody unconscious on their living room floor; he had overdosed on Xanax and heroin and his “friends” had just left him there. Cody’s dad, Jim, was able to revive him, but he passed away two days later due to lack of oxygen to his brain for an extended amount of time. Fortunately for the school boards, parents, legislation, and students in Mid-Missouri Jim Marshall is a strong-willed man who has showed great strength in using his loss story to help make change in the surrounding communities. Jim Marshall was my mom’s high school coach and followed my athletic career very closely, traveling near and far to support my sister and I while we played the game we loved. He reminds us to never take a day for granted and supports us the way he wishes he could still be supporting Cody every single day.

With each generation there are more and more kids suffering from anxiety and depression, but unfortunately, with each generation comes less face to face engagement and poor coping mechanisms. We are at a time in society where parents don’t want their kids to have to experience failure or work through challenges. We are dealing with a post 9/11 generation, they’ve grown up with terrorist attacks, mass murders, and bombings. We are at a point in time when it is easiest to quit or avoid any situation that gets tough, this is when we run to self-medication. We have the mindset that pills are the cure all for anything and everything that comes our way and the most unfortunate part is how readily available these opioids are. Opioids, used to refer to synthetic painkillers such as Vicodin, but now describes all opium-derived drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Heroin, Fentanyl, Percocet, and Morphine. Opioids and other prescription drugs are readily available in every town, community, and school district as early as middle school; they can be found in the locker rooms, in the libraries, and on the streets. Drug abuse does not discriminate.

Drug abuse doesn’t discriminate and has spread to every segment of society: white, black, rich, poor, young, old, those who are involved, and those who are outcasts. No one is immune to the disease of addiction. Those who get caught up in prescription and opioid abuse are not your stereotypical “druggies.” It is your 4.0 student who got a 34 on the ACT. It is the captain of your state championship basketball team and it affects every socioeconomic class from top to bottom. In Columbia, Missouri there were 378 overdose calls last year (that is 1 per day) and the majority of those victims were 18-25 years old. While this disease doesn’t discriminate, it is killing off the young people of our communities.

Medical staff has played a significant role in this epidemic and are quick to prescribe pills as treatment. There has been a spike in pain killer sales from 1999-2015. Prescription opioid sales have quadrupled in that time; opioid related deaths have increased at the exact same rate (4x). Statistics show there were 338 heroin deaths in 2014 and in 2001 there were only 18. It is important to note that 35% of the people prescribed 1 month’s supply of painkillers become addicted for 1 year and 4 out of 5 heroin users started with prescription drugs. There has to be more regulation. Until July 2017, Missouri was the only state without Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). PDMPs are important because they track a patient’s opioid drug history, with hopes of preventing prescription abuse. In other states, doctors have full access to a patient’s medical history to help notice early signs of addiction. Having access to a patient’s information also reduces “doctor shopping” where patients go from doctor to doctor until they are prescribed the medication they wish to have. PDMPs play an essential role in stopping doctors from giving out too many pills and patients from getting too many pills; this is the key piece in prescription pills not being so readily available to people of all ages.

While opioid-related substance abuse doesn’t pertain specifically to athletes like a Performance Enhancing Drug would, it doesn’t also doesn’t exclude athletes. We saw above how every demographic is poisoned by the disease of depression, anxiety, addiction, and overdose. Coaches play such a vital role in the development of student-athletes into successful, prepared adults, but this is the next thing that they have to be educated on. It is important for coaches and athletic staff to understand the trends around substance abuse. The NCAA conducted a study and published the following reports: “NCAA National Study of Substance Use Habits of College Student-Athletes August 2014” and “NCAA Student-Athlete Substance Use Study: Executive Summary August 2014.” The findings of those studies, directly from the reports, are: Excessive drinking is down significantly among student-athletes. Alcohol excluded, student-athletes are much less likely to engage in social drug use than other college students. Self-reported substance abuse is highest among Division 3 student-athletes. Substance abuse is generally higher among male athletes. Student-athletes in lacrosse report substance use rates that are notably higher than in other sports. Men’s basketball student-athletes generally report using these substances at much lower rates than other student-athletes. Nearly one-quarter of student-athletes reported using prescription pain medication. Student-athletes who reported ADHD medication use were more likely to use without a prescription. These are the trends that leaders in sport need to be aware of.

What’s the next step in making positive chances surrounding this horrific epidemic? We need more “Jim Marshalls”. He travels all over the state sharing his story and educating kids (of all ages), parents, school boards, and he has fought endlessly to make legislative changes that limit access and increase monitoring of prescription/opioid drugs. First, we need to realize the size of the monster (drug abuse and addiction) we are dealing with. The solution is not to increase police staff, but we need more middle school programs that teach kids how to deal with anxiety. They have to understand what depression is and how to handle it. Kids need to learn how to deal with their emotional issues and how to solve their own problems; they need to understand how to “bounce back” from failure because growth can in fact occur through failure. There needs to be more mental health specialists available to kids at schools, the ratio of counselors to students is not efficient or effective. Classes that teach prevention of falling into this terrible trap need to be more accessible to kids; school districts haven’t failed, but for a problem this large more needs to be done. Parents need to be education, they have to understand their role in raising kids without coping skills, the modern day signs of substance abuse, and they must lose the “This can’t happen to me” mindset. 16% of state budgets are spent on addiction and substance abuse, we have to invest more money into better prevention and treatment programs.

Changes are being made and Cody’s story has lived on to prevent other parents from having to experience what his did 6 years ago. Bill 501, named Bailey and Cody’s, Law became effective August 28, 2017. This bill states that people who call 911 or bring in a person who has overdosed to the hospital can’t get in legal trouble; this encourages people to help those who have overdosed and will ultimately save more lives. Bailey and Cody’s Law is just one of the ways Jim Marshall has used his tragic story to help make change one speaking event, one school board, one struggling student, one naïve parent, and one state representative at a time.


Cody’s Gift: Jim Marshall- Drug Awareness, Prevention, and Education.

Opioids, Shatterproof, from

Morgan, R. (2017, April 06). Running out of time: Missouri’s opioid epidemic. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from

R. (2014, August 27). NCAA Student-Athlete Substance Use Study: Executive Summary August 2014. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from