Call me crazy but there is a serious problem with how we are choosing to move forward in the face of “the opioid epidemic”. Now, let me clarify, I have every reason to want our society to find solutions to this growing problem- so, I am not untouched by the pain caused by the growing number opioid deaths our country is seeing. I recently lost my daughter, who I miss daily. I agonize over her overdose death, my heart breaks every time I think about her and every time I realize I will never hold her again or hear her sweet voice.
What I would like to see is a responsible, measured, and educated response.to the opioid epidemic. I would like to see something that makes sense. A plan that utilizes the most up to date empirical scientific research, but that’s not all. A plan that actually listens to active drug users. A plan that talks to the people that are affected and asks “what can we do to help”! The people who are struggling with the problems are most positioned to find and implement solutions.
This is not, however what I see and this makes me sad for our country. It makes me cry for all the mothers yet to come who will stand right where I have stood, asking why? How?
What I see, is what I see all to often. A witch hunt, a reaction, an emotional response, that not only does not fix the problem we have, but makes things far worse.
So who am I, and why does what I say matter? Well, I am a person who understands addiction and substance misuse in the most intimate way a human being can understand something. I have struggled on and off with addiction issues and substance use/ misuse throughout my life. I have a master’s degree in public health. I have worked in traditional addiction and recovery for many years and I have spent the last 10 years running an underground syringe exchange in NC determined to help drug users improve their lives and social circumstances. I work for NCHRC teaching overdose prevention, attending heath summits, community task force meetings, and lastly I am directing Urban Survivor’s Union a national organization with chapters in three different states: Washington, California, and NC. We are operating the first drug users union in the southern United States. This is a group of former and active drug users who are committed to ending the war on drugs and improving the lives of people like myself.
Wait, there is more. I am an amputee, and have lived with terrible, untreated chronic pain for years and I know the devastation that occurs in a persons life when a pain patient is treated like a liar and drug seeker and left to suffer.
I saw on the news tonight that a bunch of doctors were under investigation for over prescribing pain medication. Is our country confused about how and why there are so many people using heroin? One of the reasons is that they are unable to get the drugs from their doctors. What do you think people do when they need pain medication and are unable to obtain it?
- Travel far and wide to find a doctor
- Get it from a friend
- Order it off the internet
- Get it off the streets
I have had so much physical pain, yet never in my adult life have I been adequately treated for my pain. SO all the irresponsible prescribing you hear about, that’s not my story. People like me are denied pain treatment out of the gate.
Now as long as I am in the hospital they keep the pain medication flowing but as soon as I am released …..I am given next to nothing, no matter my mental and emotional state.
I have been forced to treat my own pain a number of times over the course of my life due to doctors fear of “getting in trouble”. I am seen as a risk for any doctor to prescribe pain meds to, but does that mean that I don’t have pain? HELL NO, in fact many would argue that i need more pain meds not less (or none).
As a society we have agreed that addiction is not a problem of morals, but rather something greater. Call it whatever you want– so long as you understand it is not “shitty person that has no self control” –we know that genetics play a role, mental illness, childhood trauma, —what ever it is and whatever causes it — I believe it is unethical to leave a person in pain, pain that destroys their quality of life when there are solutions available? Is it the pain medication that is causing the overdose deaths or is it the lack of education that people receive regarding opiates that cause the real problem.
It seems to me that if Naloxone was prescribed with every prescription of opiates that would be a start. It seems to me that if we used health educators with pain patients and people who are injured that would be a great start.
When I was run over my life changed. I could no longer walk. I was seriously depressed and unable to function very well. What a world of difference it would have made for someone to be assigned to helping me cope with huge life changing events that I was coping with. I would cry through entire doctors appointments yet no one ever considered actually doing anything to help me. When I missed appointments it was perceived that I did not care about my health…that was not the case at all, I was DEPRESSED and unable to function very well.
Our systems need to look at solutions that are not so fucking simple. TO just say to doctors we are watching you and we will ruin your career if anyone overdoses and dies on your watch is not a viable solution. If we do this more people will die. More people will become addicted to black market drugs. WHY CAN’t WE SEE THIS.
When my ankle looked like this….did I not need pain meds? The last pain doctor went to see was armed with my criminal record! I knew pretty much as soon as he whipped that paper out I would not be receiving any legal medication for my pain anytime soon. So, I ask, does clamping down, and tightening up controls on doctors solve anything? No- I would argue that it does not solve anything, anything at all.
When people turn to the streets for help, that is the beginning of their life as an illicit drug user. There are no controls, no one you are accountable to, no milligrams you can measure, it is just you and you alone trying to get by.
The black market prices quickly bleed you dry of any savings you might have earned. If you started out buying pills on the street most people are not able to financially maintain this for long. Heroin is much cheaper. The price of pills go for around a dollar a mg. so a 30 mg. of Roxycodone costs about 22 0 30 dollars on the street and it would take at least 3 or 4 of those to = one bag of heroin on the street for 20 dollars. Before you know it you have become a heroin addict, something you thought you would never be.
What’s the answer? Why don’t we try to find one together, before more mothers loose their children, before more people end up in prison, needlessly. before more suicides occur because people can’t cope with the pain they are living in…..
Please, if you are on opiates or know someone who is get naloxone. It is a safe drug that can mean the difference between life and death.
Articles I have found to be useful for understanding this further: