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pills, opioids

Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education of Tuscaloosa held a conference on Wednesday to raise awareness on the opioid crisis.

PRIDE seeks to educate teenagers on the dangers of illegal drug use and how to rise above the epidemic. Over 150 students attended the conference and guest speaker Eric Harrison shared his story about addiction.

“It was kind of the thing to do at the time. Everyone was sipping on syrup,” said Harrison.

He said he has been on a journey with opioid addiction for over 15 years.

“I had actually overdosed and aspirated and I was in a coma for 20 days. During that time my girlfriend she had overdosed too and she didn’t make it,” said Harrison.

Harrison said when he woke up from the coma, he knew he had to make a change. He said he had tried to quit before and it wasn’t easy. Harrison is hoping that his story will help save someone else.

Captain Phil Simpson from the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force said Harrison’s story sounds all too familiar. Simpson said most opioid addictions begin the same way.

“It started as innocent use, and there was peer pressure to it, he said using the cough syrup was kind of a cool thing,” said Simpson.

Simpson said that by Harrison sharing his story, he’s helping others stay off the path of addiction.

“I think somebody being able to stand up and say, this is what it’s going to do, this is how my innocent use of it ended up. I think it raises awareness and takes away some of the gloss,” said Simpson.

Today, Harrison has been drug free for one and a half years. He said there’s a lot of reasons he stays clean, including memories of lives lost to addiction. He is now enrolled in the University of Alabama and focuses on taking care of himself. He said that these are some other things that keep him from using again.

“I’ve kind of built my life up to where, if I use, I can’t keep doing what I’m doing,” said Harrison.

Now that he’s clean, Harrison wants to focus on educating others and teaching people how to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Nationally, 25 percent of 12th-graders admit to using some sort of illegal substance in the past 30 days. PRIDE’s mission is to lower these numbers, and conferences like this provide a way to start a dialogue and show students the dangers of using drugs.

“I feel like the information that they’re sharing it will help each and every one of us in the long run,” said Katelynn Patton, senior at Greensboro High School.

Harrison said he now hopes to travel the world to share his story and help put an end to the opioid crisis.

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