It can’t be a silent ad­dic­tion any more

With Gr o ac G e

Record Observer - - Opinion -

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.

HAN­NAH COMBS

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