#10 August 31, 2021


Today is International Overdose Awareness Day and the time is ripe for some big changes in the way this country thinks and acts. It’s time to put an end to a day like this.

It doesn’t matter if you have been affected by OUD or think you have not been affected, and therein lies the problem. Perhaps you don’t realize that we all are affected: maybe not in the same way and hopefully not directly. So, how do we stop this epidemic from destroying our families, friends and citizens, no matter the extent of their involvement?

For those who have not been directly affected by this disorder I want you to think carefully about your thinking process. You are probably thinking that since you don’t know anyone who has this problem then it is of no concern to you. Guess again! Whether you have health insurance or not, you are paying a price. That price is higher insurance costs that you must bear and higher insurance costs that Medicare and Medicaid pay. These programs come from your taxes. So, are you not affected?

What about the war on drugs? I don’t have all the numbers since the 1980s when this war on drugs began. However, in these 40 years and more, we have not yet won this war. That means for almost half a century we have been battling “war” which has cost trillions of dollars and the loss of many lives, including those who were literally in combat fighting this war. Do you think you have not been affected?

Now, what about those of us who have been affected by OUD? We have all suffered the loss of someone we love, no matter the age, color, religion or gender orientation. I’m pretty sure those of you who are not directly affected probably knows someone who knows someone that is affected. And, we all know someone who is suffering now from this disease and is fighting this battle with one arm tied behind their back. Not a fair fight I would venture. 

How much suffering did this person go through and how much suffering did we, the survivors go through? I don’t think one can put the extent of the psychological and physical suffering endured. How much damage do you think has been done by any measure? I don’t think there’s a way to calculate it. I don’t think there’s a way to encapsulate what has happened to all of us who have lost someone in this way.

The question remains. What should this country be doing about this epidemic? I don’t have all the answers and I don’t think any one individual does. But perhaps, all of us in this community can pull together and suggest solutions to our government, to our citizens and to our medical institutions, both researchers and practitioners. We know too well how the recovery system in this country is not working for all people who are sick with this illness. Imagine if we all came together and tried every idea no matter how much out of the box some solutions might be. I have talked with many people on my podcast who have lost someone, and I bet they would be willing to try anything to keep their loved one alive by any means. Sounds like a sure bet to me.

The only thing that matters is that we all must come together to defeat this beast by any means. One of the most important ways to defeat this disease is education. Education would put everyone on notice that they could help someone save a life. Education would help eradicate the stigma that many families like mine suffered from and caused us to remain silent.

Imagine if we mentioned our child’s illness and someone knew what to do and how to help. And I am aware that even this might not have saved my son’s his life. But, what if it kept him alive for years and in that time, they developed new technologies and learned more information from the research. Perhaps he would still be here with us and would not be a statistic. For us he was not a statistic. He was a loving, cute, little redhead with lots of potential who suffered from some psychological issue which we could not see. We all thought that this could not happen to us like some of you are thinking it could not happen to you. Think again and do not bet on it never happening to you. I hope this is the last IOAD we are remembering.

If you are interested in learning more about OUD, please check out our podcast, These Ghosts Must Be Heard, which tells the story of many families who have lost a loved one due to OUD. You will also learn the truth about this epidemic and what is needed to eradicate it. And you will find out about the human toll of the bereaved families and how many of them have become advocates to remove the stigma that still exists.

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