Media scrutiny of the nationwide opioid-related public health crisis has never been more visible. The New York Times recently ran front page coverage of a significant increase in overall mortality among 25-34 year old white Americans due to drug overdoses. The piece drew a breathtaking comparison to the AIDS epidemic some two decades ago, and highlighted the fact that non-whites are far less likely to be prescribed the high doses and frequent refills for prescription painkillers that white patients are. Equally high profile, this past Sunday evening, Sixty Minutes featured a story entitled “Heroin in the Heartland” aired on CBS between the NFL Conference Championship games. All of the families interviewed were white, upper-middle class Ohioans whose late teen to young adult children were lost – permanently – to the heroin and some of its pharmaceutical derivatives.
Much of today’s compelling coverage focuses on tragic and unsuspecting truths: Addiction is a disease of the brain, not a manifestation of unhealthy choices. Stigma attached to heroin forces use of the drug underground, blocking opportunity for early intervention before great losses occur. Many become addicted due to an unparalleled rise in the medical practice of physicians and their prescriber counterparts’ free-handed use of drugs to help reduce pain for their patients. There are many factors to consider, and it is tempting to focus on or blame one over the others.
Interdiction is the task of our U.S. Coast Guard, federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and numerous other state and federal agencies. The U.S. remains at the top of the world market for illicit drugs imported from abroad, and produced by pharmaceutical means on its homeland. Our attention to outside factors is important, but it distracts us from the ground where we often fall miserably short: Our homes.
Doorstep deliveries of heroin have become reality across the country, impacting all age demographics and socioeconomic segments of the population. Families who have a loved one in the throes of opioid addiction have one of the unmentioned keys to healing and recovery: their own lives, separately and together. How to respond to the actively addictive lifestyle of a loved one requires a look inside the family. Professional guidance from a clinical team can be the key that unlocks the promises of a life in recovery for someone you love. Call one today. Very few clinical teams identify as specialists with opiates. At ARCH, both Nathan Moore, MD and David Petersen LCSW, LAC, are experts in dealing with this class of drugs.
David Petersen, LCSW, LA