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How Opioids Were Widely Misunderstood By The Surfing Community

One of the most troubling aspects of the opioid crisis is the general lack of understanding surrounding the issue. This is most exemplified in our perception of the biggest culprit: Opioids themselves. From the surface, Oxycontin (or Oxycodone) seems like just another prescription drug, and that misperception has only amplified the crisis. Unfortunately, for so long, we’ve assumed that since they’re so easily obtainable from the doctor or the pharmacy, they can’t be too bad for us. Otherwise, why would doctors be prescribing them left and right?

RELATED: See Andy Irons: Kissed By God on Tour Worldwide

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an opioid addiction specialist, explains how that’s not the case. In fact, there’s no distinction between these prescription painkillers and the narcotic heroin. Put plainly, they’re heroin pills. A study was done at Columbia University where heroin users were allowed to self-administer both in a blind taste test. The results found that the users didn’t perceive a difference between the two.

On top of his struggle with bipolar disorder, Andy Irons was also ensnared by a severe addiction to opioids. His friends had realized that his drug habits had changed him, but were unaware of how dangerous the situation really was. Most notable was the fact that Irons had stopped freesurfing in between competitions and at some points even struggled to keep composure when he participated in events. “Yeah. One in the morning, one at lunch, maybe, one at night,” explained Joel Parkinson, who witnessed Irons’ habits firsthand. “And I remember just going, ‘Man, those things are just deadly.’ And then, I guess, I didn't realize how far they'd spread. They were in pretty deep in Hawaii, so a lot of the boys...they were poisonous, those things,” said Parkinson, looking back out how the crisis plagued the surfing community.


If you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from a bipolar disorder, please, contact the SAMHSA national helpline.

From The Series: Andy Irons: Raw Outtakes

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Anderson Cooper to Explore Nazaré This Week on 60 Minutes
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Anderson Cooper to Explore Nazaré This Week on 60 Minutes

Anderson Cooper to Explore Nazaré This Week on 60 Minutes

In 2011, big wave legend Garret McNamara was towed into a 78-foot monster swell off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. At the time it was the largest wave ever ridden, and needless to say, it shocked people around the world. Most recoiled in fear, others watched with queasiness, and a select few waxed up their boards and hopped on a flight to Lisbon. Since McNamara’s historic ride, Nazaré has turned into the world’s premier big wave destination, and every winter some of the best surfers flock

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Nazaré Welcomes Russell Bierke
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Nazaré Welcomes Russell Bierke

Nazaré Welcomes Russell Bierke

The locals consider it a sign of good luck to take a massive wipeout when surfing Nazaré for the first time. If the legend is true, then renowned slab hunter Russell Bierke might be the luckiest guy in Portugal. After letting go of his towline and dropping into an estimated 60-footer, the young Aussie got overtaken by the pursuing wave and disappeared for 14 agonizing seconds. We can only imagine the beating he took, but if anyone has experience in that type of situation, it’s Russell. 

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Video: Kelly Slater Remembers Getting Into a Fight With Andy Irons
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Video: Kelly Slater Remembers Getting Into a Fight With Andy Irons

Video: Kelly Slater Remembers Getting Into a Fight With Andy Irons

On tour, the rivalry between Kelly Slater and Andy Irons often turned heated. One time, Kelly Slater shares, he and Irons got into a physical altercation while on a boat in Fiji. Both had been drinking, and things escalated quickly. Unknown to Irons, Slater’s father had recently passed away, and when Irons realized, he profusely apologized. But it did not end there. RELATED: Buy Andy Irons: Kissed by God Online Now Slater shares: “Andy and I talked again that day and again at that time we