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Can Language of Addiction & Overdose Awareness Reduce Drug Deaths?

Chris Bolt/WAER News

Changing how we talk about drug abuse and more awareness of overdose remedies could cut down on the 72,000 reported drug-related deaths of the opioid epidemic last year. That’s the opinion of local parents who had children who have overdosed and local prevention experts today during International Overdose Awareness Day. 


Deanna Axe lost her daughter Morgan to an overdose.  She found her daughter’s character put on public trial – when her story of trauma wasn’t.

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Deanna Axe (center) joins staff from Prevention Network and ACR Health in calling awareness to overdoses in our community. Shoes represent those who will never walk in them again because of overdose deaths.

“Morgan was ruthlessly attacked on social media and news outlets.  People posted, ‘she deserved to die.’  What people didn’t know is that she had a story.  At the age of 17 her boyfriend committed suicide while on the phone with her.  While she was thriving in rehab, my father, her grandfather, drowned in Otisco Lake.” 

Deanna Axe lost her daughter to an overdose. She urges people can be part of the solution in simple ways.

Axe says many victims are people … and shouldn’t’ be referred to as addicts or junkies. 

A-C-R Health Overdose Prevention Counselor Kevin Donovan adds language can be deadly because it can prevent someone from seeking help.

“As a recovering injection drug user myself, I can speak for the fact that stigma really affects all levels of society.  Active users are judging themselves and that’s making it harder for them to get into recovery.  So if I’m blaming myself for the disease I have, it’s a self-defeating cycle and it’s going to keep making it easier for me to go back to that substance.”

(source: ACR Health)

  • 91 deaths from opioid related overdoses in 2017
  • In 1999, zero deaths from opioids in the county.
  • 2017 stats show 36% decrease form teh 142 deaths in 2016
  • 2002 individuals trained to use Narcan, overdose rescue drug
  • 270  voluntarily reported overdose reversals - lives saved - using the rescue drug

Mary Lorini considers herself a lucky parent.  Her son was discovered by a passerby moments after he overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin … and he was revived by Narcan. 
“So I am so grateful that there is Narcan, that it’s out there.  And I would love for people to know that it’s the one thing that can save a life.  And it’s worth everything for me to put that out there and let people know that it works and it saves lives.”

She’s told numerous people to get trained to use Narcan – even her 13-year-old daughter. 

Mary Lorini shares the emotional story of her son's overdose and the value of Narcan in preventing overdose deaths.

A-C-R Health officials say there needs to be more resources for treatment and prevention, as well as Narcan.  The agency does training, and notes all New York State pharmacies are supposed to have the overdose remedy available without a prescription.  A reported 91 people died of overdoses in Onondaga County last year. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.