It can’t be a silent addiction any more
With Gr o ac G e
You can tell it is spring on the Eastern Shore. Where else could you go out in the morning in your flip flops and spend your evening commute watching snow? Fog, rain, wind, hail ... we’ve got that! Mother Nature, you’ve certainly impressed us with your display, but I’m over it already. If you could see fit to provide me with a few beach days before the peninsula begins to sink a little more under the influx of tourists, I would really appreciate it. Sincerely, Me.
I’ve struggled a bit with this week’s column, because I want to give you something lighthearted and be ebullient (this word’s for you), but the truth is there is a story that weighs too heavy on my heart to ignore. My colleague covered this week yet another story on the ongoing opioid addiction that faces our nation. It is an epidemic that is sweeping our cities and leaving no one untouched. The CEO at Anne Arundel Medical Center called opioid addiction a disease — one epidemic proportions. Cardin and Sarbanes said a bipartisan effort is underway in Washington to tackle the opioid epidemic.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has tracked the number of deaths in the U.S. from prescription opioid pain relievers from 2001 to 2014. Statistics report an increase from almost 6,000 deaths per year, to nearly 20,000 in 2014. Triple. Statistics for 2015 weren’t included in this report, but use your imagination. We know this is a problem. And it isn’t going away.
The question is, what is it going to take to fix it? Health care providers and prescription drug companies undoubtedly need to shoulder some of the responsibility. Irresponsible prescribing of opiates should not be taken lightly. I’m not suggesting an all or nothing policy, because I know that isn’t effective. Alcohol related deaths still continue despite stricter DUI laws and penalties, and I don’t know that the problem can be legislated to death, but there can and should be responsibility, and accountability. Responsibility. Accountability.
Illegal distribution. Negligent prescribing. More accurate diagnosis of mental health conditions. We’ve dug our way into this hole, in the true American way of ignoring the problem. We have to dig our way back out.
And it’s not a problem just for those communities somewhere else. We can’t say not my child. It’s right here at home. My very good friend who is an unbelievable mother and now grandmother, one of the most giving and nurturing
women I know, is right now watching her son die. Once a high school athlete with an ordinary injury, he has overdosed twice in seven days. EMS follows their new protocols, and each time he gets another chance, but he can no longer fight for himself. His addiction is now calling the shots, and it doesn’t want him to win.
She doesn’t mind that I share her story, because
every moment she is awake she is advocating for him and is in this fight against heroin and opioid addiction. By choosing not to enable her son’s addiction she has come under attack, and she doesn’t get the credit she deserves for standing up for her son and for the countless others who don’t have someone who can stand for them. I don’t know that I could be as strong. This is grace.