The opioid crisis is a major worry around the country, and a dangerous dependency on the drug can start early, during high school, especially among young athletes recovering from injuries.
Now, the Tempe Union High School District has a program to fight back against opioid abuse, using a team-oriented approach that relies on student athletes, coaches, school administrators, parents and doctors, all working together.
Located in Ahwatukee, Desert Vista High School, like many high schools around Arizona, has a proud athletic tradition, and where athletes compete, that can mean injuries.
"The injuries are across the board," said Dan Hinds, Desert Vista's head football coach. "In football, many varieties. This last season, we saw back injuries, we saw ankle injuries."
Recovery can be painful. That's where painkillers come in, and the potential for painkiller addiction. So, Tempe Union has come up with a plan to keep opioid abuse from happening.
"It is a team environment, with trainer, team doctor, parents, coach, athletic director treat it like the concussion protocol," said Tommy Eubanks, Desert Vista's Athletic Director.
Parents play a central role, as they can make sure the athlete only gets exactly what he or she needs to keep pain to a minimum during recovery. That means keeping close tabs on what's in the house.
"Maybe a parent had a surgery two years ago, and a have a leftover prescription in their cabinet," said Eubanks. "Do you really need that anymore? Have a plan for those type of things."
Officials with Tempe Union are optimistic this new approach will keep young athletes in the game, and away from opioid abuse. This opioid protocol is a tightly-designed plan that puts an emphasis on the medical benefits of the proper use of painkillers, along with a clear explanation of the dangers.