You hear it on the news, read about it on Facebook, and see the ads on the train ─ there is an opioid epidemic sweeping the nation. This epidemic killed roughly 60,000 people last year alone. But if you don’t know anyone who uses drugs, it is easy to assume that this problem could never affect you. As tragic as those deaths are, you think this is not your problem to fix.
But the reality is that deadly drugs like Fentanyl and heroin are making their way into homes all over the country, homes just like yours and the one next door. If there is one thing the opioid epidemic has made very clear, it is that it does not discriminate and will continue to claim the lives of people from all different walks of life. Yet despite this, many continue to be blind to the possibility that one of their loved ones could be struggling.
Many think, “Not my child. They would never try heroin. They’re from a good home.” But addiction does require a sketchy character in a dark alley or a broken home. Addiction can start in a doctor’s office, with a simple prescription to painkillers. You can read about it in newspapers and obituaries, stories of people who were prescribed powerful painkillers after an injury and never stopped taking them. By the time their prescriptions ran out, they were addicted and desperate for another fix, which led them to heroin and eventually to an overdose.
Others started using opioids as a form of self-medication for anxiety or depression. Others were looking for a way to deal with their trauma. Others were just experimenting, promising themselves it would just be “one time.” No matter how the addiction started, it is important to remember that no one starts using drugs with the plan to get addicted. And that these overdoses are not just another statistic you can easily ignore; they are someone’s loved ones. They are students, professionals, rising athletes, parents, and grandparents ─ people who never imagined they would end up trapped in the cycle of addiction. People just like you.
It is time for everyone to stop thinking that this could never be them. It is time to erase the stigma surrounding addiction and to treat it as the disease that it is.
Do not ignore the signs out of fear or shame. If you or a loved one is struggling, seek immediate help.