Opioid Addiction Awareness Spreads

by | Oct 12, 2015 | Addiction | 0 comments

Home » Addiction » Opioid Addiction Awareness Spreads

One of the major issues that we have discussed at great length in some of our recent articles is the need for more people to understand the nature of addiction, so that the stigma against addiction and those who suffer from this disease may finally be put to rest. The need to increase awareness is also directly related to the need for better avenues to treatment for those who are facing legal charges. While these needs apply to addiction in general, we have happily noticed that there has at least been a spread of opioid addiction awareness over the past few weeks.

Opioid addiction awareness has spread in a number of different ways, each of which is equally important in the grand scheme of things. Below, we’ll talk about the three most major causes behind the spread of opioid addiction awareness as of late. One cause is political, while the other is based more in pop culture. But to start, we’ll talk about one town that recently decided to dedicate the entire month of October to spreading awareness on behalf of opioid addicts everywhere.

Opioid Addiction Awareness Month

Opioid Addiction Awareness Month will encourage citizens of Andover to turn in their prescription drugs to be destroyed. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times)

Opioid Addiction Awareness Month will encourage citizens of Andover to turn in their prescription drugs to be destroyed. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times)

Did you know that October was Opioid Addiction Awareness Month? Probably not, but you could easily be forgiven for that. After all, it’s a relatively new thing. Opioid Addiction Awareness Month was established this year in Andover, MA, as a response to the growing number of heroin overdose deaths. There are a number of events being planned for the town of Andover, so that town residents may unite in the fight against addiction. Some of their events include speakers who serve to educate parents on how to communicate with their children, documentaries on how teenage addiction starts, discussions and workshops on various subjects, and more.

Before Andover launched Opioid Addiction Awareness Month, they had experimented with a new program in the form of Drug Take Back Day. This involved a drop box (which will be available 24/7 during Opioid Addiction Awareness Month) meant specifically for unused prescription drugs. On the day itself, 300 pounds of drugs were deposited into this box. Over the course of the year, there have been 725 pounds of prescription drugs deposited. Once these pills have been deposited into the box, they are collected and brought to a local incinerator where they may be destroyed.

In some ways, the prescription drop box is similar to Scarborough’s Operation HOPE. While Operation HOPE is geared more toward allowing addicts seek treatment in lieu of criminal charges, the program begins by encouraging addicts to bring their drugs to the police station so that they may be destroyed. It should also be noted that both Drug Take Back Day and Operation HOPE were launched primarily due to the recognition of northeastern towns that there was a growing need for opioid addiction awareness. Both Scarborough, ME, and Andover, MA, have come to the realization that their police forces could not handle the spread of addiction without a little help from their residents—even when those residents must, by necessity, include the addicts themselves.

Not only is Opioid Addiction Awareness Month not the only campaign in the northeastern United States focusing on opioid addiction, but it’s not even the only such campaign in Massachusetts. Much earlier in the year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health revealed the “Stop Addiction In Its Tracks” campaign. Stop Addiction was launched primarily as an ad campaign, consisting of both digital ads and television ads that ran throughout June and July. The official website for the campaign, however, is still open.

At this website, visitors will find information on opioid addiction awareness, ranging from the stories of young addicts who have chosen to share their histories with addiction to information on treatment methods. One of the major treatment methods suggested by Stop Addiction is Narcan, a medication specifically geared toward the prevention of overdose deaths. But more than anything, the spread of opioid addiction awareness itself was one of the primary goals of the Stop Addiction campaign. More specifically, it was aimed at parents so that they might learn more about the dangers of opioid addiction and how to prevent their children from suffering its effects.

Stop Addiction, Operation HOPE, and Opioid Addiction Awareness Month all represent the growing desire of our nation’s citizens to combat the spread of heroin and other opioid-based drugs in an effective manner. While most of these programs are only targeted at specific areas, they still set an example that will hopefully spread throughout the United States and promote the cause of awareness. This is especially true of Stop Addiction, which provides information that is available to anyone at any time. If Opioid Addiction Awareness Month proves successful, then the residents of Andover will hopefully seek to establish a similar event in surrounding areas next year and in subsequent years beyond.

Tom Petty Discusses His Addiction

Fames musician Tom Petty has allowed author Warren Zanes to tell the story of his addiction in his upcoming biography. (Chad Batka/The New York Times)

Fames musician Tom Petty has allowed author Warren Zanes to tell the story of his addiction in his upcoming biography. (Chad Batka/The New York Times)

We recently discussed famous people in recovery, noting that we can learn a lot by observing the stories of well-known addicts and alcoholics who have had similar struggles to our own. Not only do some of these sober celebrities offer specific words of wisdom that we find useful, but even their mere existence reminds us that addiction can affect anybody. That is why we were happy to learn that Tom Petty is helping to spread opioid addiction awareness by telling the public about his struggles with heroin addiction.

Petty’s addiction is discussed in Petty: The Biography, which is planned to hit shelves next month. Although to be fair, the book was actually penned by author Warren Zanes. Nonetheless, Petty permitted Zanes to discuss his heroin addiction, which began at some point in the 1990s. Not only was Petty willing to tell his story, but he was very specific about ensuring that it was told the right way. “I am very concerned that talking about this is putting a bad example out there for young people,” Petty told Zanes. “If anyone is going to think heroin is an option because they know my story of using heroin, I can’t do this.”

Fortunately, Zanes understood Petty’s position quite well. He agreed that any sense of romance should be left out of Petty’s addiction story, and that it should serve as a cautionary tale instead. Petty gave Zanes the freedom to reveal his warts to the public. As far as he was concerned, it was less important for him to maintain his reputation than it was for readers to see the truly awful effects of heroin addiction. Petty may not be contributing to the spread of opioid addiction awareness on a major level, but there will certainly be many potential addicts and their families who will come into contact with his biography. If Petty’s willingness to let Zanes tell his story results in even one person’s choice not to use heroin, then this book has achieved an act of heroism.

Of course, Petty isn’t the only addict who has helped to spread awareness in the past few weeks. We’ve mentioned the UNITE to Face Addiction rally in multiple articles since it occurred, and there were many celebrities present such as Joe Walsh and Steven Tyler who were more than willing to discuss the importance of sobriety. Many other addicts, such as Ozzy Osbourne, even appeared in a video before the rally to speak on the stigma against addicts and how this stigma must be erased if addicts are to receive the fair treatment they deserve.

Opioid addiction awareness is not the only front receiving additional aid in recent weeks. Cocaine addiction awareness has also received a boost, thanks to comedic actor and musician Jack Black. He was apparently using the drug when he was only 14 years of age, and it didn’t take long before it got out of hand. “I was hanging out with some pretty rough characters,” Black told Parade of his addiction. “I was scared to go to school [because] one of them wanted to kill me. I wanted to get out of there.”

Much as Petty decided to let Zanes be honest in his biography, Black learned the importance of honesty through his own addiction. “I spilled my guts,” said Black on the subject of telling his father about his addiction, “telling him I felt guilty about stealing from my mom to get money for cocaine. I cried like a baby. It was a huge release and a huge relief. I left feeling euphoric, like an enormous weight had been lifted from me. It changed me.” This feeling that Black describes is why programs such as Operation HOPE and Drug Take Back Day are so successful. They offer more than simple addiction awareness—they also teach addicts the benefits of accountability.

Addiction Awareness in Politics

We said earlier that there was one major political cause for the spread of opioid addiction awareness. But as should be evident from the above sections, there is never just one cause. Although if we did have to narrow it down to one cause above all the others, it would probably be the current push to utilize Narcan on a more widespread basis. That, or the presidential primaries. Let’s take them one at a time.

Every time a new drug begins to show strong effects in the treatment of addicts, there is eventually a major push to utilize it in the treatment of as many patients as possible. This is one of the reasons that Vivitrol treatment has become popular, as its effects against opiate and alcohol addictions were too strong to ignore. Not only does it benefit addicts to know that such medications exist, but the press they receive stands to bolster opioid addiction awareness as well. This means that even news outlets that disagree with the use of such medications will ultimately serve the addict just by spreading the word.

In Camden County, NJ, the town of Collingswood has assisted the cause of opioid addiction awareness by pushing Narcan through Operation SAL (which stands for “Save A Life”). As we stated earlier, Narcan is essentially an antidote to drug overdose, and the Camden County Police Department estimates that officers administering the drug have probably saved more than a dozen lives each since they began using it. Operation SAL, much like Operation HOPE, will aim to seek treatment for addicts who are in need of it. They are hoping to help at least fifty addicts through the program, which has accrued funding of about $150,000 through community development grants and county funds.

You may have noticed by now that a number of programs such as this are not born out of general concern. As nice as it would be to think that the organizers behind such programs simply woke up one day and decided to spread opioid addiction awareness throughout the masses, it is generally a rash of overdose deaths that wakes people up and gets them talking. New Hampshire is hoping that its own heroin epidemic may bring opioid addiction awareness to the national forefront, as their state will be the location for the first presidential primary. There are certainly candidates who understand addiction from a personal standpoint. Republican candidate Carly Fiorina has lost one of her own family members to addiction, and Jeb Bush has a daughter who is currently struggling against the disease.

It would do these candidates well to address the issue of addiction. Studies have shown that opioid addiction awareness is beginning to spread organically throughout the nation as a whole, which isn’t surprising since about 70% of citizens have been administered prescription drugs at one point or another. Not all of these are opioid medications, but there is still great concern regarding our nation’s apparent reliance on prescription drugs. We’ve previously written about this reliance and its effects on addiction in the military, but many civilians are affected on a daily basis as well.

Small programs such as Operation SAL are doing wonders for opioid addiction awareness. But they are not enough. If addiction becomes a major point of discussion among presidential candidates as we approach the primary, then American citizens will begin to talk about these issues more and more. Simply talking about the issue will obviously not resolve it, but it is a step in the right direction. And with the children of America dying under the influence of heroin and prescription opioid medications, we should be trying to spread awareness by any means necessary. There is no such thing as a step in the wrong direction, as long as we are educating the public on this awful, frightening, tragic epidemic.

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