The Opioid Epidemic

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, as well as prescription drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.

In 2015 there were 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance abuse problem. Of those, two million involved prescription pain relievers and 591,000 included heroin. These numbers have increased dramatically in the past two years. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

Could I become an addict? Could you, or your loved ones? Absolutely, and we are naïve if we think this couldn’t touch our lives. Every single addict started out just like us, as a person full of potential and deserving of a future.

Somewhere along their life path, they were hurt, they were weak, and they thought they were unworthy and undeserving of a future, of a family, of a normal life. Somewhere, they legally began using prescription painkillers. Pharmaceutical companies are our biggest drug suppliers, and make billions of dollars off addicts. In 2014, the sales for pharmaceutical companies topped one trillion dollars. This leaves our nation with a multi-faceted addiction problem.

We are in the position of helping others, being non-judgmental, saving lives and making a difference in peoples lives. The opioid epidemic dirties the water of our jobs. We see the horrible outcomes of addiction every day. We see it in the children’s faces. We see it in the dead bodies. We hear it in the grief of family members. However, underneath the addiction lies a person, no different than you or me. A person who desperately needs treatment, which is greatly lacking across the country.

In-patient treatment is for people who can afford it, and people who have great insurance. Addicts typically do not fall in either of those categories. So, what are their options? Continue to use, to numb their pain and their sickness, knowing that the next needle could kill them. Addicts are not stupid. They are not naïve. They didn’t grow up with great aspirations of becoming addicts. These are people that had hopes and dreams, and desperately crave the help needed.

Recently, the horrible outcome of addiction touched a friend’s family. Her daughter was left to die of an overdose, alone and in a motel room. She was a mother. She was a daughter. She has a face, and a name, Lauren. And she deserves to have a voice. The addicts, and their families and friends, all deserve to keep their dignity intact. They all have a name, a face, a voice and feelings. To the addicts who are struggling, I hope you find help, realize there is hope, and pray for the real you to surface again.

– Lara Sue