Local News

Harnett County sheriff brings opioid abuse fight to schools

Posted February 6, 2018 12:27 p.m. EST

— Harnett County officials on Tuesday continued the fight against drug abuse by talking to grade school students about addiction and the ways it can affect lives.

School officials and health experts on Tuesday discussed drug abuse with 1,500 students at Overhill High School in Harnett County about drug abuse. Students heard a powerful message about opioid addiction in families they wouldn't think could have a drug problem.

The auditorium was packed as students heard messages from a law enforcement officer, a pharmacist and a mother. The mother said her son's addiction to opioids started in the eighth grade. She described how the addiction nearly ruined his life, including two suicide attempts.

But the most powerful message came from 22-year-old Alex Cunningham. He's a recovering addict who started smoking when he was 13.

Cunningham said smoking led him to use a variety of drugs, including opioids, that nearly ruined his life.

"It just starts as the same as just snorting a pill," Cunningham said. "You start snorting heroin, and then one day when you're sick from the heroin and somebody has it, and it's already in a needle, and you're sick, you really don't have a choice. You're going to do what you have to do, and so from that point on, it was shooting up."

Students applauded Cunningham when he told them he has been clean for a year.

The drug awareness sessions are the brain child of Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats. He plans to make the presentations to students at all five Harnett County high schools.