Opioid addiction is a challenge in West Virginia’s northern panhandle counties. But the counties of Hancock and Brooke look forward to educating the communities about the problem with the help of Innocorp’s Opioid Goggles.
“Yes, opioid addiction is a big problem in our area,” said Mary Ball, project coordinator of the Advocates for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) Coalition that serves Hancock and Brooke counties. “Route 22 connects Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania together in a quick trip. We experience a lot of flow-through of different substances because of this.”
Ball explained that while heroin and methamphetamine continue to create problems in both counties, it is opioids’ widespread appeal to different groups within the population that makes it a growing challenge.
“Our data shows that it is young adults to the elderly who seem to become the most likely to abuse or misuse opioids,” Ball said.
So ASAP took part in a focus group on the new Goggles in January. Innocorp values the hands-on input of experts like Ball, and it sponsors test sessions to help refine the product and affirm the direction Innocorp goes with it. Past sessions have led to product changes that made the experience easier to conduct. Ball invited extension agents from West Virginia University in both Brooke and Hancock counties to an afternoon session. An evening session drew members of the ASAP Youth Council. Members of both groups were impressed by the presentations, and each seemed to favor different aspects, according to Ball.
“The earlier group preferred the puzzle,” she explained. This aspect of the training showed clearly how opioids keep a user’s attention divided and scattered using a simple puzzle-like task. Participants learned what it’s like to try to concentrate on a task but find themselves constantly distracted from it.
“The youth preferred the driving activity,” Ball continued. This “drove” home the dangers, not just to the user, but also to the public at large when distracted driving and even blackouts interfered with the complex tasks associated with driving a vehicle. This particular activity is not currently available, but it, along with additional activities, will be available in 2021.
Ball explained that while each group seemed to prefer different activities, their overall reaction to the Goggles was similar. “Both groups felt as if these Goggles would be a great learning tool,” she said. “They would give people the opportunity to experience the effects of opioids without the danger of taking them. They felt that this tool would be key in helping people realize why they should be careful when taking prescriptions and the dangers of being under the influence of even legal opioids.”
Ball felt that the Goggles would be an excellent addition to their education program and outreach. “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to educate,” Ball said. “People in general enjoy interactive presentations versus lecture or informational presentations. Utilizing the Opioid Goggles would allow us to give an interactive segment to our normal methods of presentation.”
Whenever ASAP uses the Alcohol or Marijuana Simulation Goggles, the presenters experience an influx of participants, according to Ball. “People are curious in nature and want to know the truth, not just what we have to say,” she said. “The different goggles allow us to give them that experience in a safe and healthy learning environment.”
She added that the Youth Council is still talking about the Opioid Goggles and have asked repeatedly about purchasing them to use at their events. Ball noted that everything was well laid-out and the tools that come with the kit make for an effective presentation.
“This is an amazing tool that addresses an issue everyone in the prevention field has been trying to provide information about,” Ball concluded. “Our coalition recommends this as a great addition to informational presentations. Our Youth Council gives them their seal of approval!”