It’s not easy to think about, but there’s an epidemic raging in our state and nation. Opioid overdoses and substance use disorders are at all-time highs, especially in Washington. Heavy alcohol use, too, has shot up since the COVID pandemic. These public health crises require effective treatments, widespread prevention, and a good dose of empathy.

Pretty much everybody has some connection to somebody who has had trouble with addiction or substance use—sometimes with fatal consequences. Washington State University researchers, Extension staff, and others at WSU take a caring, human approach while they investigate innovative ways to treat, prevent, and reduce the harm of substance use disorders. This issue highlights some of those efforts to address addiction and substance use.

Rural areas in the state have been hit especially hard by the opioid crisis, which highlights the need for more health care access in those communities. In response, the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has launched a Rural Health Initiative that places pharmacy students at sites outside of cities.

Pharmacists play a vital role in the health of rural residents. Tyler Young (’13 PharmD) recognizes that need as he and his wife run a pharmacy on Vashon Island. “At a rural pharmacy, you’re truly taking care of your neighbor. That’s what makes it so rewarding,” Young says.

Those strong personal relationships are familiar to WSU alumni and friends. In many ways, the Cougar Marching Band, now under a new director, exemplifies close-knit WSU connections. The band members’ camaraderie and their ability to link together the Cougar Nation is abundantly clear.

Another way we can build empathy is reading stories of the past. Former WSU professor Quintard Taylor researched Black history in the Pacific Northwest, and he introduced some of the influential Black pioneers through his work.

We all like to get together for food, too, and what better food than WSU’s own Cougar Gold? We’re looking for your dishes that feature our signature cheese to celebrate its 75th birthday. Share your recipe via social media or our contact page and it could be featured in the magazine.