COLUMN: A crisis we are forgetting, a crisis we should not be avoiding
No one likes losing a friend. Drifting further and further away from a friend is difficult.
It’s not an easy thing to come to terms with.
The greatest challenge is preparing for the inevitable day you delete their phone number, say goodbye and then move on.
Sadly, this is what one too many people do every day. Just like I did.
I watched for three years as prescription drugs slowly took a high school friend.
One of the last things he said to me was, “Do you think I’m going to be one of those numbers? Yeah. Well, I do. Maybe it’s not too bad being one. Wouldn’t it be funny?”
Unfortunately, I knew exactly which numbers he meant.
The deaths attributed to prescription opiate abuse.
Now, every time I see them, I do.
When I read the U.S. Health and Human Services opioid epidemic fact sheet, it said, “Our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic.”
It shook me.
We are in the middle of an epidemic that’s destroying lives and communities, but no one seems to care.
We let our politicians get away with doing nothing. They use people’s suffering and pleas for help to get them elected, then they don’t do anything.
President Donald Trump promised to fight the opioid epidemic and during his first months in office. He has done nothing to combat the problem.
His commission, created to find ways to combat the opioid epidemic, recommended declaring a national emergency and focus the federal government on rehabilitating users, not enforcing drug laws.
The Trump administration decided it was unnecessary to declare a national emergency and has advocated for stricter enforcement of drug laws, not rehabilitation treatment.
Trump is not the only one to blame.
Democrats in the Senate, specifically Claire McCaskill, Maggie Hassan and Ron Wyden, made it a point to bring up the opioid epidemic during the 2016 campaign. They also made comments about how to fight the epidemic in the first months of 2017, but have done almost nothing in response.
We don’t hold them accountable.
We don’t hold ourselves accountable.
We look at opioid users like they’re criminals. We excuse ourselves from caring about them. It’s become acceptable to not care about someone because they have an addiction they have no control over.
We can’t let this become the norm.
We need to force our government to do more.
We need to take care of those around us, and recognize when someone needs help.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24/7, 365 helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
I don’t want to lose another friend. Neither should you.