What I am about to say, perhaps no one wants to hear or read, as it were. But, I would be perpetuating a fraud, to myself and to those communities, groups and individuals who not only want to say, but need to hear someone else say these words. So, this goes out to the strong-minded, self-assured and empathic souls who don’t mind and aren’t threatened by hearing someone speak their truths-share their realities and speak their mind. To further preface this conversation, the words expressed here do not in any way represent the words of a divisive, angry, prejudiced or a hypocrite’s cry. This is merely an example of what it means to ‘broaden one’s cultural lens, and not reject an experience, view or belief of others who may not relate to life as it is lived by another.
When the black and hispanic communities were under siege by the heroin and crack cocaine epidemic, the world and the nation sat back and either let it happen or criminalized the addictive behaviors due to people’s need, far beyond desire, for a ‘fix’ or a ‘hit’ of these drugs. Lots of otherwise good and honest people were ‘jones-ing’ for a psychological and physiological relief, and the country just blamed the victim. Oddly enough, they weren’t responsible for the influx or transport of these drugs into their ‘hoods. But bore the brunt of blame for their conditions as though they were the reason for the country’s ills. We mustn’t forget that illegal substances were strategically placed in their communities, where they lived and raised families.
People went to jail-black people, brown people-men, women and even children at school. Everyone either went to juvenile detention, jail and/or prison. What did anyone care about the children left behind, broken homes or the children who were suffering because of a parent’s drug use? They were taken away from parents, who were considered unfit or criminals and as a result, innocent kids entered the child welfare system-and into another type of imprisonment themselves. Where does the hope lie? Where is the help or disease model or social policy change? Compassion, empathy, humanity? National health emergency? NIMBY!!![not in my backyard]
Over the past 15 years, communities across our nation have been devastated by increasing prescription and illicit opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose. In 2016, over 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder due to prescription opioids or heroin. Since 2013, the introduction of illegally produced fentanyl has made the problem worse.
For prescription drugs, the availability was ever plentiful. All one needed to do was be white and visit a favorite medical doctor. Occasionally, hospitalizations precipitated this addition. It began as physiological in nature. Genuine pain-bodily. But does that mean that people in the poorer communities were not in pain too? A different type of pain that didn’t require an injury or surgery, but that which one could only wish would cease to bother their minds. Their heads were hurting, from the inside. Souls were in turmoil. Dreams were deferred and destroyed. Hope was all but gone, withering away due to life as a minority in a system that had no respect, regard or felt any remorse for them or their children. The system worked for them, and that was all that really mattered. Everyone knew it;everyone felt it;everyone saw it. Their brains were experiencing pains of a systemic sort.
That is not to say that in suburbia, there was nobody experiencing psychological pain. The pains felt were not economical to the extent that basic life needs were continuously negotiated and prioritized on a level incomprehensible to most. Their pains were not brought on because of skin color or name. They were the pains of, what some would consider ‘excess’, privilege and extreme comforts.
Abuse, neglect, food insecurity, unemployment, ageism, misogyny, and others exist across the board. Coping skills are only as sophisticated as that which we are either taught directly, vicariously or by happenstance. The coping skills which manifest as central to our ability to engage resilience and continue along a defined journey into being.
As we seek solutions in the national fight against opiods and other illegal substances, SAMHSA’s[Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] latest press release stated that the agency looks forward to continuing its role in helping American communities through evidence-based programs in prevention, treatment, and recovery services on behalf of all who have suffered the effects of opioid addiction.
HHS[Health and Human Services] is implementing five specific strategies that are guiding SAMHSA’s response. The comprehensive, evidenced-based Opioid Strategy aims to:
- Improve access to treatment and recovery services to prevent the health, social, and economic consequences associated with opioid addiction and to enable individuals to achieve long-term recovery;
- Target the availability and distribution of these drugs, and ensure the broad provision of overdose-reversing drugs to save lives;
- Strengthen public health data reporting and collection to improve the timeliness and specificity of data and to inform a real-time public health response as the epidemic evolves;
- Support cutting-edge research that advances our understanding of pain and addiction, leads to the development of new treatments, and identifies effective public health interventions to reduce opioid-related health harms; and
- Advance the practice of pain management to enable access to high-quality, evidence-based pain care that reduces the burden of pain for individuals, families, and society while also reducing the inappropriate use of opioids and opioid-related harms.
We shall see how the nation, as a whole, recovers from the persistent menace called ‘drug addiction’, a recognized crippling, life-destroying, family disruptive, community compromising temporary ‘cure’ for unmet needs, unspoken and unacknowledged anger felt by millions. People, we need a national intervention! Doctors, clinicians and behavioral health practitioners, step up to the plate! Use your voices, training and your skills to engage us in a collective catharsis. We need a breakthrough! The pain is killing people all around us! 911 emergencies are for psychological pain, too! If you are in pain, seek help!