It is often said — thought terribly misunderstood by many — drug addiction doesn’t discriminate at all.
It affects all walks of life, from the rich to the poor, to people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions. One of the people its struck — Ray Lucas, a former star-athlete at Harrison High School, Rutgers University, in the NFL (New England Patriots, New York Jets & the Miami Dolphins) and TV commentator on Sportsnet New York (SNY).
Now the head football coach at Harrison HS and the director of the Harrison Housing Authority, a position his own dad once held, Lucas has been very open about his addiction to pain killers, which he started taking after he had numerous surgeries (more on that later.)
It got so bad for him, did his addiction, he estimates he was taking a staggering 1,400+ narcotic pain killers a month — just to exist.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, student athletes at Harrison HS received an education on the risks of prescription opioids from a Lucas, a talk that was part of the Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative, a program created by the Partnership for a Drug-Free (PDFNJ) and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, in collaboration with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).
It was the second of 10 events for high school students through the 2022-23 school year and the first to be in-person.
Lucas shared stories from his playing days and detailed how he developed an addiction to opioids and achieved recovery, while also urging students to stay educated and informed about the risks of prescription opioids.
“Sports injuries happen in high school, so make sure to ask the questions about what you are being prescribed for pain and if there are alternatives,” Lucas said. “Opioids are addictive and can affect everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you are struggling, there are always people you can ask for help.”
Football took its toll on Lucas, whose career was cut short having sustained numerous injuries and having undergone more than a dozen surgeries during and after his playing career. He became dependent on prescription opioids and has been open about his addiction and recovery in an effort to help others who have struggled with addiction and to prevent youth athletes from going down the path to addiction.
Student athletes have an elevated risk of opioid use as sports injuries send more than 2.6 million children to emergency rooms every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mission of this conversation is to educate student athletes on the risks of prescription opioids, as well as the importance of taking care of themselves physically and mentally.
A Monitoring the Future survey also found adolescent participants in high-injury sports had 50% higher odds of non-medical use of prescription opioids than adolescents who did not participate in these types of sports.
In 2021, more than 3,000 people in New Jersey died of drug overdoses, a majority of which involved some form of opioid.
In Hudson County alone, there were 517 naloxone administrations to reverse opioid overdoses and 84 suspected overdose deaths from January through June that year.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.