Help end the stigma of opioid misusers so one less life can be lost
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America's opioid crisis is growing at an alarmingly and dangerously large rate.
Just last year, overdoses had resulted in more American deaths than the combined fatalities from the year’s car crashes, gun violence, HIV cases, plus those of the Vietnam War. Each day, our nation suffersapproximately 170 deaths from these types of overdoses.
Despite these high statistics, there has not been much action toward making this a smaller number. Indeed, there has been action to lessen the number of prescribed painkillers. However, since 1999, prescriptions have actually been prescribed at a 3x higher rate. There has also been action to contain the importation of fentanyl, but this has not even come close to working.
170 deaths in one day. This is a bigger problem than the media is discussing. It is a bigger problem than, "Oh,that guy was just a number to the statistic; It happens." This is a bigger problem than the stigma behind addiction. Congress can create a health care bill that will cut all access to the treatment for addiction. Imagine if we did not have any treatment at all. Imagine what 170 would become.
The challenge is the two-parted debate. How does one take care of those who are currently addicted who may either fortunately get treated or choose to use deadlier and cheaper substitutes? Simultaneously, how does one make sure that an entirely new generation does not gain access and overuse opioids?
So let's start with the latter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the amount of opioids prescribed was enough for every American to be medicated 24/7 for three weeks straight. This grew because the pharmaceutical industry created marketing initiatives that did not speak to the harm of prescribing painkillers. The advertising did not and would not mention anything about the addiction that can and does occur from this. It did not note that when taken off high-dosed prescriptions, users would find other means of getting the same feeling as when on them by turning to cheaper and more potent drugs.
To counter this, I am taking a stand today to make the greater population far more educated on these problems. As an aware society, we will be able to address our lawmakers and ensure that addiction TREATMENT for people who are struggling with opioid addiction is easier to access than it is for them to access the drugs themselves. Treatment is something that should be affordable. It is something that should be provided with a caring, safe, and loving environment that is free of addiction stigma so that those struggling can feel loved and worthy of getting past their addictions. As a country, we need to have better prevention strategies. As far as healthcare, the industry needs to provide medicine like naltrexone that can help reduce cravings for painkillers.
Regarding the aforementioned who are currently strongly addicted: we can still make these addictions safer and reduce harm among those who are struggling with stopping their use of illicit drugs. We can create safe havens where these users can get new syringes so that there is a smaller chance that the needles they choose for injection will carry a disease. The creation of facilities that would emotionally care for and medically supervise this and the actual act of substance using would not only lessen the harm done to these users but would also regulate schedules,overall lessening the intake and doses of the drug thus giving them the chance to gradually rehabilitate.
Lastly, what I want to leave off with is the truth. We do not talk about treatment and we do not talk about the fact that addiction cannot be changed overnight. It is a disease and we need to start treating it like one. We must not call these users who face every day as a struggle “abusers” or “criminals,” or just another statistic to a problem that no one wants to face. There are countlessdifferent factors that contribute to addiction, many starting with how the criminal justice system operates. Much of it also begins with how the government chooses or doesn't choose to label or help a specific group of people due to the stigma that revolves around the situation. As noted before, in 2016 there were more drug overdoses that resulted in death than there were from car crashes, gun violence, HIV, and the entire Vietnam War. The fact that this isn't discussed is disgusting. BUT... we don't have to keep thisissue in the shadows any longer.
We do not need to have another newspaper article write about “the criminal that used an illegal needle." We need newspapers filled with education on how those who are hurting can seek help and those who know others who are struggling can seek help for them. People who use do not want this life. They do not want to have to hide in bathrooms or lose their jobs or burden their families. Most do it in private and most never wanted in the beginning to think about constantly having to revolve their lives around getting a drug in them just to feel like everything is okay for a little bit. They do not want to be seen as a victim, a criminal, or a strain to society; especially not when society played a significant role in why this is happening in the first place.
What we need are lawmakers who are willing to fight for this. We need publishers that understand how important this is to saving a large amount – any amount - of lives now and in the future. We have the power to put this in the light and make sure that thousands of people are saved. Addiction does not have to be the end. We can help make a new end that involves a productive, happy, safe, and kind future for all of these people.
To read more on what the government is currently doing to help use these links:
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction I hope you can find these links to be helpful. Remember you are loved. You are not a burden. You are not a waste. With help you can make life better for yourself. It does not need to end this way.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP
Opiate Help Hotline, 1-888-512-1337
Drug Abuse Helpline, 1-877-752-5364
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