The opioid crisis hits home. Mine.

The opioid crisis hits home. Mine.
Photo credit:USA Today

“No family is immune from the scourge of the opioid crisis. About 2 million people in America, from all walks of life, are addicted to opioids. The epidemic is evolving but not improving.”

Bill Sternberg, Editorial Page editor, USA Today knows only too well “the emotional and financial toll it can take on a family.” He writes personally and poignantly about how his own son, Scott, fought a losing battle with opioid addiction:

“There’s no ‘magic conversation’ that can keep adult children out of harm’s way or turn their lives around. There’s no bright, clear line between supportive and enabling.”

Based on his own family’s experience as well as conversations with experts, Sternberg shares what he hopes will be helpful to others:

He writes about how “drugmakers, distributors and doctors flooded the nation with prescription painkillers that were far more addictive than the manufacturers claimed.” His own son may have been introduced to opioids in college when an incision became infected following an appendectomy.

He explains that “Today, addiction is recognized as a chronic brain disorder marked by people losing control of their drug use, then losing control of their lives. They can’t stop using, despite the harmful consequences.”

Sternberg points out:

“We don’t talk about letting heart patients or diabetics hit bottom before giving them treatment. Nor should we talk that way about people battling addiction.” Considering all the fentanyl laced drugs out there that are lethal, he stresses that “relapsing on opioids or dropping out of treatment needs to be regarded as a life-threatening emergency. Too often, hitting bottom means dead.”

He refers to addiction treatment in this country as “a national disgrace” and writes that it isn’t easy to get “reliable, consumer-friendly information about specific programs and providers.” He warns against programs that are

“essentially scams set up to harvest the 30 days of treatment that many insurance policies cover.(Never mind that it takes at least several months to heal the addicted brain.)”

And even after treatment, he relates what one therapist told him:

“The longer you are clean, the more your tolerance changes. If you relapse, a dose you used to be able to handle can be fatal.”

Sternberg begins and ends his column with the hardest question he is asked at social gatherings, “How many children do you have? He now replies: “The answer is three. We’ll always have three. One of them is no longer with us.”

USA Today, 9/6/18

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