West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced his office will feature the Ravenswood versus Ripley gridiron matchup as an Opioid Abuse Prevention Game of the Week.

Throughout each week, the initiative engages with student athletes, coaches, school officials and communities across West Virginia. Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office inform the respective coaches as to the dangers of opioid use and provide educational material for display and distribution in the schools to foster more discussion of the issue.

The week culminates with the Attorney General’s Office staffing an information booth at each of the select sporting events to distribute opioid abuse awareness materials.

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on West Virginia’s youth,” Morrisey said. “Most every student knows somebody that has been impacted by the crisis. We must be persistent in our efforts to raise awareness. It is crucial that student athletes and their communities learn about the negative impact of opioid drug abuse.”

The initiative, now in its fourth year, is part of a broader partnership to tackle opioid use in high school athletics. It involves the Attorney General’s Office, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission and the West Virginia Board of Medicine.

“Our entire state and indeed our local community are concerned with the opioid crisis,” Ripley Principal Beverly Shatto said. “We see the Opioid Awareness Game of the Week as an ideal opportunity to get information into the hands of students and to give the Attorney General’s Office the chance to have a public presence on our campus for that purpose.”

Opioid painkillers may temporarily relieve pain, but do nothing to address the underlying injury and can have serious side effects. The medication also carries striking similarities to heroin.

The Attorney General and his partners worry the unnecessary usage of opioid painkillers to treat athletic injuries could lead to increased dependence, abuse and addiction.

Parents and caregivers are urged to discuss alternative treatment plans with their child’s healthcare provider. Such alternatives include physical, occupational and massage therapy, along with chiropractic medicine, acupuncture and over-the-counter medications.

If an opioid proves necessary, parents and caregivers are encouraged to only use the medication as directed, closely monitor their child’s use, safely dispose of any unused pills and talk about the inherent dangers of misuse, abuse and sharing.