Albuquerque Journal

Just being there helps those in throes of addiction

Seemingly simple things can be done to fight the scourge of fentanyl


Fentanyl is one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest, drug out right now. I have lost friends. Others have lost friends and family, and the rate at which people are dying/becoming addicted is only rising.

In 2017, 59.8% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared to 14.3% in 2010, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In 2020, (N.M. Department of Health) officials recorded 304 fentanyl overdose deaths between January and November, a 135% increase over 2019, the Journal reported in February.

Not only is it an extremely deadly drug but it is also just as addictive. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, yet the drug is much more common than morphine on the streets of Albuquerqu­e.

“Do you have any blues?” is one of the most frequent questions I am asked around town, as much as people ask for cigarettes at least. Is there a way to halt this fentanyl epidemic that continues to take our friends and family from us? To be honest, I don’t know how. If I did, this column would be different. What I can say is that our friends and family struggling need support. They need help on a mental, emotional and physical level. I have friends who struggle to maintain jobs, relationsh­ips and more because of their addiction to fentanyl. Though I can refer them to a job or urge them to get help, you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t force a horse to drink.

I spent time away from these friends because it wasn’t a life I wanted to be involved in. It didn’t change the suffering though. As a matter of fact, it only got worse for my friends. Eventually, (after) a year or so, I came back into contact with a friend and began to visit him. With his life in shambles, there wasn’t much I could do when I was still putting my life together. Though I didn’t think it meant much, I spent time with him. This reconnecte­d us. I got to see (things) from his perspectiv­e. It is a very cold and lonely life. He was tired and drowsy most of the time. Most friends and family had abandoned him in his addiction, and the people he was around, addicts, were hardly trustworth­y. This helped me realize how valuable my presence was in his life.

I didn’t make him feel ashamed or guilty for his affliction but rather just treated him like a human being, or more so my friend. I still invite him to events and activities now. Staying connected had also helped me connect him to resources he could trust, because he trusted me.

There is still much work to be done to heal our city, state and country from this dark and lonely abuse. But we should never underestim­ate the power of our presence, our interventi­on, when it comes to our friends and family. We are all human, and we all have our own pitfalls. It is much harder to get through these things alone. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciou­sly give other people permission to do the same.”

Check on your friends/family. Don’t feel guilty to show your pain. We all go through something.

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