03KayHaganTwo wonderful friends, one from my childhood in Fayetteville’s Haymount neighborhood and one of more recent vintage, are raising grandsons because their daughters are addicted to opioid drugs. One has custody of a rising ninth grader, a sterling young man who is doing well in school and a pleasure to know. The other shares custody with another grandparent of a just-turned-2-year-old, whose future may be a bit iffier. He spent his first 18-months or so in an apartment with little furniture and few toys because his parents sold most of their belongings to buy drugs. He sees his mother once a week for up to an hour and will not allow her to touch him.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 130 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdoses. It reports that there have been three waves of opioid addiction — prescription drugs in the 1990s and 2000s, followed, beginning in 2010, by heroin because it is cheaper, and now fentanyl, the deadliest of all. The economic burden on individuals, hospitals, communities, states and our nation is beyond staggering, not to mention the human misery laid down on both addicts and people who love them.

These two boys are fortunate in having grandparents willing and able to step up to the parental plate for a second round. Many children of addicted parents wind up in foster care, a percentage that has risen to a full third of all children in foster care in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sadly, no one knows what this means for children of addiction.

Associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, Dr. John Carter, told the American Psychological Association, “Because we are trying to put out the fire in terms of stopping overdose deaths, we haven’t really been tending to other casualties, including kids — most importantly.”

If and when we end the epidemic, its collateral damage will remain with us.

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Hope Mills resident Charles Jackson, 66, had his — and millions of other people’s — wildest dream come true last week. Wearing jeans and a baseball cap, Jackson picked up a ceremonial check for $344.6 million, which will be considerably less after taxes. His is the largest jackpot in the North Carolina Education Lottery’s history. Jackson did not realize he had won initially, and when he did, he thought it was $50,000 or so, not the multi-millions he will eventually pocket.

Jackson says he will get some new jeans and take his wife on a trip back to her native country, Vietnam, but otherwise has no big spending plans. He seems like a fellow with his feet firmly planted, but other big lottery winners — well, not so much. Experts say that as many as 70% of them are broke within a few years of winning and recommend that big lottery winners step back, take a deep breath, hire legal and financial experts and keep a low profile.

The Jacksons have no idea how many long-lost “friends and relatives” are going to come out of the woodwork.

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Americans have just commemorated our brave military service members who have protected us and others all over the world, most recently those who took part in the Normandy invasion that ended World War II in Europe. There are other forms of bravery as well.

Former United States Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., of Greensboro served in both the North Carolina General Assembly and the U.S. Congress, and last week, she appeared at the groundbreaking of an airport facility she helped to make possible as a U.S. Senator.

She and her husband, Chip Hagan, were all smiles, demonstrating the bravery of perseverance and ongoing service.

Photo: Kay Hagan

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