National Overdose Awareness Day

National Overdose Awareness Day just passed. I thought I’d be more excited for the attention given to overdoses, but something felt off. Maybe the part where most acknowledging it have been affected in some way is what bothers me. Those people are already aware. When will everyone else catch up?

Maybe the wordiness throws me. National Overdose Awareness Day. Yeah, I almost fell asleep writing that. Its not catchy like that Ice Bucket Challenge. There’s nothing fun or exciting about drug overdoses, except, of course, for the families who haven’t lost their loved ones thanks to Narcan.

Narcan may have saved lives, but it isn’t a cure, and sadly, there are many who still mistakenly believe that Narcan is part of the problem. Imagine that there are people out there who think that saving lives is a problem. Or that there are people who think that there should be limits on Narcan. So we’ll save you once, but that’s it. After that, well, kiss off.

So that’s sort of my problem with National Overdose Awareness Day. Well, that and that I don’t know what color the ribbon is. We get a ribbon, don’t we? Or maybe not because so many still believe that addiction is a choice, or that it’s because of bad parenting, or socioeconomic status, or, well, I don’t know what they think. I just am pretty sure that the people who need to be aware are not. Those people are pretty sure that addiction happens to someone else, not their loved ones.

I went to a wake not that long ago for a kid who overdosed. I sat in a room and thanked God that it wasn’t my kid. I then asked God to forgive me for my gratitude because I knew how easily it could have been my kid. It was an awful conundrum.

I had a kid that I loved overdose in my home. There really is no way to ever describe the terror. There is no way to explain what it felt like when I received a thank you card from his mother for calling 911. I did nothing other than call 911 and a mother was grateful. I will never forget hugging her at the hospital, grateful again.

The problem with National Overdose Awareness Day is that people aren’t grateful unless they are affected. People think it isn’t their problem. They have all the answers, until it is their kid, their loved one.

I wish I only loved one addict, but I don’t. I watched a lot of kids grow up who became addicts, kids who came from good homes, kids who came from money, a lot of money. I watched kids I love overdose. I sat at a wake with kids I love that had been to too many wakes. None of them need a National Drug Awareness Day. They need answers. They need a government that stops treating addiction like a crime. They need a government that stops allowing a rehab industry to remain a billion dollar industry, even with a 90% fail rate.

So yeah, I’m not a fan of National Overdose Awareness Day. Maybe I should be. Maybe it’s a start, but I want more. I expect more. I wish everyone else would too.

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Life Over Death Even for Addicts

A kid I love overdosed in my home a few years ago. It would be impossible to ever describe the helpless feeling of watching a kid that I loved turn different shades of blue before turning a pasty white or the horror I felt as his face became colorless. I was sure that he was going to leave my home in a body bag. As I screamed on the phone to the 911 operator I had imaginary conversations in my head with his mother. I had no idea he was using, but wondered how I could ever apologize to her for this happening in my home. As I screamed into the phone and had imaginary conversations I begged God to spare this kid.

Thankfully police responded quickly. They revived him with a dose of Narcan. Minutes after I was sure he was dead he walked out of my home on his own two feet, a true miracle.

I think of that night often, especially as a new debate over Narcan pops up, not just between ignorant people on social media, but with public officials, people elected or appointed to serve the public.

The debate rages on as some want to limit how many times a person is rescued with Narcan while others share memes questioning whether or not police officers should even carry it. And don’t start me on the police chief who won’t allow his officers to carry it at all.

Why do they want people to die? My child is in recovery. The kid who OD’d at my house is also in recovery, but there are people out there who are not. There are many of us who love an addict.

Why would anyone think death is somehow justified? Would you want your loved ones to die?

Its not my fault that the addiction industry is filled with crooks, and no, I don’t mean the addicts. I mean the pharmaceutical companies, the ones who market those dangerously addictive opiate-based pain pills that have created this epidemic. I’m talking about those same companies who came up with Narcan, the miracle treatment that saves lives.

I’m sorry that there is no cure for cancer just as I’m sorry that getting treated for cancer can bankrupt a patient and a family. A drug addict dying won’t change that. A drug addict dying won’t save the life of anyone else.

So why do people post things on social media calling for cops to stop carrying Narcan or asking why cancer drugs aren’t free if you can get Narcan for free? I guess it’s a lack of understanding because I know many of the people who share that stuff. Many of them are nice people. I don’t think they want my kid to die. I don’t think they want anyone else’s kid to die. I guess when they hit share they’re not thinking about the people they know, maybe even the people they love who are struggling with addiction.

It is not the fault of any addict that cancer drugs come at a prohibitive cost. It is not the fault of any addict that some dirtbag decided to jack up the cost of an EpiPen.

I certainly don’t want to see anyone die from cancer or an allergic reaction. I also don’t want to see anyone die from an overdose, not even if it’s the 15th overdose. Not if it’s the 100th. I never want to see anyone die, especially if there is something as simple as a Narcan treatment that can prevent death. And no, I’m not under the impression that Narcan cures addiction. It doesn’t. It does however save lives.

I don’t want anyone’s kid to die, not my own kid, not that kid who was saved in my home, not the kid of a stranger, not the kid of my enemy. Well, actually, I don’t have any enemies, but if I did, I’d hope if given the chance, someone would save their kid too.

Most of the addicts I know and love became addicts in high school. I knew many who were in rehabs during their high school years. Surely nobody could think death is justified for young kids, even if they believed that addiction is a choice.

Life over death should always be the choice, even when it’s an addict. If we can save them but choose not to, aren’t we killing them?

 

Addiction Not Weakness

Addiction is not a weakness. How do I know this? Well, my answer isn’t scientific, but if it was about strength then I know that the rehab industry would not be a billion dollar industry with a 90% fail rate. Those pricey places would figure out a way to tap into an addict’s strength and have a better success rate. There’d be a cure. Oh, wait. No cure would be needed because we could tell addicts to suck it up and be strong.

 

If only that was the answer, I wouldn’t have been at a funeral a few weeks ago, my heart breaking for parents who had struggled for years as their son struggled, parents receiving condolences from people like me, people who were thanking God that it wasn’t them making arrangements.

 

Those parents had to sit in a room with their son, their son in a coffin. Could there be anything worse than that? Except maybe the years leading up to the overdose that eventually took their son from them. No. Those years had to have had some hope, some hope that the so-called experts could have found a way to help their son get clean, to live.

 

Now we’re seeing lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that some believe are responsible for our opioid epidemic. Let me be clear. I blame the pharmaceutical companies. I blame our government. I cannot say enough that no other industry would get away with a one out of ten success rate and still be able to get federal funding. Hold on. Not just federal funding.

 

Insurance covers the treatment. I have an autoimmune disease and could not get the insurance company to cover two drugs that could have eased my symptoms, drugs that would have cost approximately $300 a month.

 

Think of all that insurance won’t cover and then imagine that rehab with a 90% fail rate is covered, multiple times, and that’s just rehab. Don’t get me started on the halfway houses.

I’d like to say that’s great that addiction is covered by insurance except it really isn’t when it is not evidence-based treatment. I mean if it were evidence-based they’d have to ask why they only have a one in ten success rate and why with that success, or fail rate, people are lining up to get in the doors. That’s a story for another day though.

 

I saw something tonight on social media mocking addiction, calling it a weakness. I saw it shared by someone who loves my child, a recovering addict. It wouldn’t be the first person claiming to love my child who has said something ugly, even if they were not meaning to be ugly. I’ve heard horrendous things not just about my child, but about me as a mother. I don’t really care what anyone says about me, but I do care when someone claiming to love my child shares something as ignorant and as hurtful as a video mocking addiction and laughingly calling addicts weak.

It isn’t a “weakness” that I’d wish on anyone. My child will most likely never live in my home again. Most of my child’s friends are either in recovery or are still in the process of getting clean, not an easy process, especially when our government allows an industry to grow into a billion dollar industry despite an alarming rate of failure.

The good news is that unlike those other poor parents from a few weeks ago, I still have my child. I was not sitting in a funeral parlor, distraught, as people tried to find the right words to say. I was in that funeral home, but as one of the people trying to find the right words even while knowing nothing could ever come close.

The bad news is that there will be more parents sitting in funeral homes. We are going to lose more kids, and we are not losing them because they are weak.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that addiction is not weakness. I also know that addicts and their families could really use support. Before you judge, before you share something hurtful, know that every parent of an addict goes to sleep at night thankful for another day that they get to love their kid. Not every parent has that luxury and they should never have to see people share things calling their kid weak, especially not by the same people who claim to love their kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing the Drug War and Our Kids

 

 

A kid I love was released from jail this week after years of being in the system. No, not my son though it could have been. It was after running into another kid I love who has been in and out of the system for years that I found out. It was a reminder that too many kids that I love have been in and out of the system, and, yes, that includes my own child.

We have lost the drug war.  I don’t care what you say. We have lost it. It isn’t just “my” kids. All of our kids are in the system in one way or another. No matter how you look at it.

So back to the kid I love who was released from jail. He was in because of a probation violation, something that has been dogging him since  his early teen years, the years notoriously known for stupid decisions. Add addiction to stupid teen choices and, surely, its a disaster. It was for this kid, this beautiful, smart, amazing kid. No, not a choir boy, but a typical teen.

I remember him getting into trouble in high school. I remember him going into rehab for the first time, for the second time, while still in high school. I remember feeling as if the issues he faced were not being met in rehab. I remember wondering how he could leave a 30 day program and then get sent back to his regular life, his regular life that lacked some very important support systems, both in and out of school. I remember thinking he was getting lost in some cracks, some very large cracks.

So skip forward to many years later and finding out he was still on the wrong end of the system. I can’t say I was surprised. I wasn’t. I was just happy that he wasn’t dead. It is very sad that the system he was stuck in didn’t seem as if it was helping him, but rather felt like a system that was keeping him trapped. Its a system set up for failure.

There is no cure for addiction. The addiction industry is a billion dollar industry. Our government has waged a war on drugs while the FDA markets opiate-based pain pills that are gateway drugs. Forget recreational marijuana. Its the opiates that have our kids hooked. The legal prescription drugs, not pot, that seem to be opening the door to heroin use.

I visited someone at a local rehab, a very expensive rehab. Another visitor asked what the odds were that someone leaving the program would stay clean. A member of the staff said one out of ten would stay clean.

1 out of 10.

Nobody thought to ask them how much the insurance company was paying for a 10% success rate. If anyone thought about a money back guarantee they did not ask.

This particular rehab isn’t alone in that statistic. What is our government doing in their war on drugs to protect addicts, families from a 10% success rate? Is there any other industry that could get away with a 90% failure rate?

A kid I love was released from jail this week after years of being in a system that failed him. He is not the only kid I know stuck in the system. There is no cure for addiction yet there is still this war on drugs. There is still so much misinformation about what an addict is, what an addict looks like.

An addict looks like you, like me, like our kids. Our government funds our rehabs. Our insurance companies pay for our rehabs, and then they don’t. Beds are full. And the rate of relapse is high, ridiculously high.

Our kids deserve better. We deserve better. The kid I love could be your kid. Demand better for him, for her.

 

 

 

 

Shaming Addicts and Little Kids

Police Officers in the City of East Liverpool, Ohio came upon a horrific scene. Two grown-ups were high with a young boy in the backseat. So of course what’s an officer to do but take pictures and post on the city’s Facebook page. I mean what else do we do in this digital age? I hope they had a Twitter and Instagram account too. Oh, and Snapchat.

The officers, or the City of East Liverpool, I’m not sure which, decided that enough was enough. They were posting pictures of those adults because the world needs to see the garbage that they deal with. Let the world see, and, in their words, they hoped that the picture would stop another addict from getting high.

Because we all know that public shaming will cure addiction. We all know that public shaming will prevent addicts from getting high. Ok, so maybe in some fantasy world there are people who believe that, and please God, tell me that there is no police officer in this world who has not been around this heroin scourge long enough that they truly believe public shaming will do anything to address the addiction problem. For reals? This is what police officers thought? And from some reports, a police chief? God help us all, especially the addicts.

I saw a headline about this earlier today. It made my blood boil. I took some time, gave it some thought, revisited it, and my blood was still boiling. I do have compassion for the child involved, especially considering that it wasn’t the City of East Liverpool that shaded his face. No, on their Facebook page his face is clear as day. So this poor kid has to deal with life with an addicted parent AND having the police officers who claim to want to help him putting his face out there for all the world to see. Because that helps him. How again?

Police officers deal with a lot of crap. I was married to one. My brother is one. My sisters-in-law were also officers. So I know the stuff they deal with day in and day out. But the court of public opinion, and certainly not the comment section of any social media site, well, they don’t take the place of anyone’s right to the presumption of innocence nor does it do anything to tackle the problem we have with addiction.

This post, by the City of East Liverpool, is doing nothing to combat the drug problem. Maybe the officers involved eased some of their frustration, but that’s about all it did. Oh, well it also gave millions of strangers the opportunity to call two addicts ugly names. It did nothing more. We should all expect more from our public servants, even while sympathizing for what they must deal with on a regular basis.