The “Opioid Youth Summit” at The Venetian in Las Vegas was organized by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Las Vegas District Office for Clark County High School students back in April. The summit was created to teach the students about the growing opioid epidemic and its dangers. By reaching out to the students, the DEA hopes they can become ambassadors to their fellow classmates and share the knowledge learned. Several speakers took the time to speak with students on the issue including parents Ed and Cyndi Yenick, and Las Vegas entertainer, Criss Angel, all of whom had experienced a loved one who succumbed to opioid addiction.
Michael Yenick was an all-American sports player. He grew up playing football and basketball with his dad as his coach and putting away trophy after trophy into the display case. As he got older, he grew stronger, he led his teams into championships, and by his senior year of high school, was recruited nationwide. He committed to the University of Nevada, Reno to become a hometown hero.
At the end of his second year, he became injured and was prescribed pills to help with the pain.
“On October 2, 2015, we got the phone call that no parents wants to get—our son had passed away,” said Michael’s father, Ed Yenick. “And it was due to pain-killing prescription drugs, prescribed by a doctor.”
The family started a nonprofit organization in Michael’s honor called Bub Hugs Foundation. The name stood for Michael’s nickname and the big bear hugs he was known for. The Foundation stands for student athletes against addiction.
“We’re here because we do not want other families to go through the pain we’ve gone through,” Ed said.
The Yenicks spoke to the students on their experience, statistical data, and showed a documentary “This is Not About Drugs” to remind them of their choices in life.
“The leading cause of death in 2016 for those 50 and under was overdose,” Ed said. “Nevada had 665 people die, that’s almost two people every day.”
The Yenicks also shared the importance of reaching out to others during times of need, emphasizing the National Helpline is a simple dial of 2-1-1.
“The moment you guys reach out, share and begin to talk with someone about the feelings that’s hurting you on the inside,” Cyndi said. “You’re that much closer to a solution to your problem and finding the help and the guidance that you need.”
Criss Angel was able to become that form of guidance for his cousin, Michael, who dealt with addiction from a very young age. For just about ten months of sobriety, Angel helped him with a place to stay, work, and into a program in Las Vegas. Angel said drugs have a huge hold, and he ultimately found Michael dead.
“I would encourage everyone here to have something in life that you’re passionate about,” Angel said. “For me, it was magic and music. It can soothe my brain.”
Angel spent time speaking to the students on focusing their time on the things in life that matter the most, motivating them to be a positive force. He leveled with students trying out different hobbies and achieving success.
“What you need to be is real, everything else is just an illusion,” he said. “You need to create your own reality with the excitement of your passions. Let that fuel you. You get one body in life, there’s only one of you. And every single one of you is unique to the world. You are a gift to the world.”