Why do we have to be high?

Addiction is America’s most neglected disease. What will it take to get the attention that this issue deserves?

How Many More People Need To Die?

Every day Americans turns a blind eye to the national addiction epidemic and we are left with two questions.

Why do we have to be high….and what can we do about it?

Addiction is in everyone’s backyard. Everyone is affected in some way, shape or form. It robs many of the lives that they were meant to live and leaves them being less than the person they were put on this planet to be.

Obituaries are full of deaths related to drugs.  Babies are unwillingly born dependent and this problem is locked away in jails. Parents lose their children without a goodbye. Staying clean for 30 years can be changed in a matter of 30 seconds. Just by an impulsive decision rooted in the fact that addiction is a recurring disease that is never truly cured.

“So, what is addiction? It is a pain killer and everyone’s tolerance is different. Today, I’ll call it that. Tomorrow, you ask me the same question and I might have a different answer,” Patrick Brown, Interventionist at the Malvern Institute, said. “But, what is addiction? It’s scary as heck. It ruins lives and not just the person addicted.”

Drugs are smuggled over our borders.  Prescription pain medicine is handed out like candy and the magnitude of this problem gets worse day by day. The systemic issues run deep. In 2015, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides. Alcohol and tobacco are the two biggest substance killers and they’re legal.

“I had a mom here [at the New Leaf Club] who said, ‘I had a cesarean and they gave me two Percocet pills. My son had his wisdom teeth taken out, fifteen years old, they gave him sixty,’” Mary Nixon, founder and executive director of The New Leaf Club, said. “He’s been in three rehabs.”

On an average day, 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed, 3,900 people initiate non-medical use of prescription opioids and 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose, according to the CDC.

“People need to be educated about opioid use and what it is and what it does,” Angel Babbas, who lost her father to a heroin overdose, said. “And how it can destroy your life.”

“There are 345 million people in America and there were 245 million scripts written in office for opioid pain medications last year,” David Fialko, Certified Prevention Specialist with the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania Inc., said. “That is enough for a bottle in every family.”

Part of the problem? Only 1 in 10 addicted individuals are currently receiving any sort of treatment. Some can’t even imagine someone with a terminal disease not getting any treatment for it. So, why isn’t the addicted individual receiving treatment?

“People look at it as a morality issue rather than a disease. Who cares what you want to call it,” Thom Duddy, executive director of communications and public relations for Adapt Pharma, said. “What are we going to do to help?”

Instead of arresting our way out of this problem, things need to be shifted to more of a public health solution. Putting people behind bars can be ineffective, and not to mention costly. Addiction costs us over $484 billion per year. Cancer costs society $171.6 billion.

“Doing the digging and looking at this, the guilt, the shame, the trauma, drives so much of this,” Brown said. “But if we’re talking about it, we can find solutions. But if we’re afraid to talk about it, we’ve got no hope.”

Addiction is America’s most neglected disease.

So, what’s the fix?

Written by: Jill Nawoyski