In time for National Overdose Awareness Day on 31 August 2018, a group of Latter-day Saint teen musicians partnered with The Other Side Academy to share a message of the hope and love that is available to everyone because of God’s Amazing Grace. It is their sincere hope that they will be able to bring to light the extreme importance of this issue in their community.
To accomplish their objective, on 30 August 2018, the Lyceum Philharmonic at American Heritage School under the baton of Kayson Brown, released an awe-inspiring, heart-stirring music video on their YouTube channel, performing an arrangement of the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” written by Stan Swim. The video, however, is much more than an orchestra performing an ageless hymn.
In the video, the story of Lola Zagey, who portrays herself, is reenacted in part. In a recent email from Kayson Brown, he recounts Lola’s story. Her story is perhaps no different than many others who find themselves in what could be a hopeless spiral of events caused by drug addiction. He said:
Lola Zagey was prescribed opioids after a kidney replacement surgery as a teenager. She became dependent on those drugs after their prescribed use. She came from a good home with parents and siblings who loved and supported her. Over time her addiction completely consumed her life and for more than 20 years she suffered in and out of prison, on and off the street. The drugs took everything from her until she found a program like The Other Side Academy that taught her how to “be found.”
According to the description of the video, The Other Side Academy “is a training school in which students learn pro-social, vocational, and life skills allowing them to emerge with a healthy life on ‘the other side.’ This program is available to those facing long-term incarceration (men and women, pre-and-post sentencing), as well as, those who are sincerely looking to change the direction of their past life. Many of the persons seeking entrance into the program are convicts, substance abusers, or homeless.
Every year a significant number of young people in this country die from some sort of drug abuse. It is reported that 4,215 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died from drug overdoses in 2015. Of that alarming number, 1,258 were females and 2,977 were males.
In recent days, the misuse and abuse of opioids (used to be referred to as narcotics), particularly among young people, has become a major national concern. An opioid is a substance used to treat moderate to severe pain. Although opioids are like opiates such as morphine and codeine, they are not made from opium. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system.
The problem has become so serious that the President has acted to try and reduce it. What starts out as a prescription drug from a local doctor or pharmacist, can easily become addictive if misused, and in some cases, the misuse results in death. As opioids can slow down a person’s breathing, an overdose on prescription opioids can stop a person’s breathing.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Opioid epidemic claims more than 115 lives in the United States every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999, increasing by 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states. Because the drug naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose, lawmakers in some states have started to authorize schools to have naloxone handy if they need it. The National Association of School Nurses has endorsed the idea.
For those who are struggling with prescription opioid addiction, all is not lost, there is hope. The Lord has promised in His Word, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thanks, be unto God for His Amazing Grace – “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. . .. I once was lost, but now I’m found. . .. ’Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!” It is His Amazing Grace that is a healing balm for the souls of all men!