I read two print newspapers each day in addition to reading online news and watching television news. The information about arrests and deaths from drug overdoses — prescription and street drugs — comes especially close to home as I recently read about drivers on Ohio highways who have overdosed and a pilot who died from a drug overdose.
Headlines demonstrate the broad range of the problem: “Children find parents dead of apparent overdose,” “Ohio pilot, wife found dead in apparent fentanyl overdose, “ “4 inmates overdose in 2 days at Ohio prison,” “Father arrested after baby ODs,” “3,050 unintentional drug overdoses Ohio residents in 2015,” and “Ohio House seeks to fight opiates.”
The pilot’s death lets me know that those responsible for the lives of hundreds each day are not routinely tested for drug use. With the highway overdoses, I ask myself, “Is it safe to drive since I can’t trust the sobriety of other drivers?”
You might retort that alcohol has always been a problem with those who drive under the influence and that life itself is a challenge with no guarantees that we won’t be killed in a mall or even in our own homes.
Let’s suppose that you have a problem in your family with drug addiction. Perhaps you’re the addict. What steps do you take?
Are you drawing a blank? Do you think that a call to your family physician will give you the answers you seek?
Blanks and more blanks, and I’ll also wager that your busy family physician will be of little or no help — when he/she finds the time to return your call.
Information that exists is fragmented and questions remain: Whom to call? What services are offered? How can the need for particular services be ascertained? What are the hours? What if there’s no health insurance? What if the addict won’t seek help?
The questions go on and on, and I daresay that many reading this could add at least a half dozen more questions.
We want to know about Narcan, the drug that can, in some cases, resuscitate those who have overdosed. I’ve heard some say that Narcan encourages drug use and should not be available. I also was told recently by someone who is in a position to know that at times the paramedic must administer up to six doses of Narcan. I, like most of my readers, need to be educated.
Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison, says, “We are a small urban environment, and our EMS is quick to respond; therefore, our police officers do not administer Narcan. We look at these overdoses as crime scenes and have success with prosecuting dealers based on evidence obtained at these scenes. Life safety is our first priority, and our officers concentrate on their safety as well as the safety of our paramedics.”
Piqua Fire Chief Brent Pohlschneider indicates that following resuscitation of those who have overdosed, “Some people are thankful, some are not thankful, and some say nothing at all. When we are called, our 911 dispatch center does a great job in assessing the emergency. Calls can come in veiled and don’t necessarily give a complete picture of the scene. Our paramedics go through an established protocol for quickly assessing the situation to help the person in need.”
Why is there a need for education? Let’s examine some opinions about drug dependency:
• Some believe drug addiction is as simple as in-patient or outpatient treatment.
• Those who value prison/jail sentences for addicts or large fines think that incarceration is the answer — and repeated incarcerations as needed.
• Some organizations and drug treatment facilities market their services and their ability to bring addicts back to sanity, back to healthy, productive lives — and they make it look so easy and foolproof.
• Others believe that an NA group (Narcotics Anonymous, modeled after AA, Alcoholic Anonymous) with whom that addict connects can get an addict clean and keep him/her sober.
• Some think a counselor/therapist is the answer.
• A few say the addict can make a decision to get sober, go cold turkey, and through will power get and stay sober.
• Others believe that early education about the impact of drug addiction will help solve the problems of addiction for many.
• To some, it’s about turning/returning to religion and to a belief in God or a Higher Power.
Drug addiction is cunning, baffling, and is different for each addict. It’s a genetic predisposition. It’s a disease. And unlike so many diseases, we know little about a cure. There is never really a cure: it’s about getting in recovery and maintaining sobriety. It’s about knowing that addiction is patient, just waiting for the addict to return to using, so it’s about dealing in constructive ways with relapse. It’s about family and friends knowing they cannot “fix” the addict. It’s about educating physicians and other healthcare providers. It’s about educating law enforcement officials. It’s about examining the laws.
It’s about home and family life. It’s about depression and other mental illnesses. It’s about social isolation. It’s about undeveloped coping skills for dealing with the challenges of living.
I’ve interviewed addicts, and I must always keep my mouth shut as I listen to their stories that make absolutely no sense to a rational person. When addicts are active in their addictions, they are not rational.
Some in the field who work with addicts are smart enough to know that each addict is an individual and that his/her process of getting and staying in recovery must be discovered and can’t be prescribed as “one approach fits all.” These smart ones know also that some will never get sober and will die.
I’m not writing today to prescribe treatment. I’m making a case for information sharing. I am suggesting that all counties have an app and a print brochure to indicate basic information: Who is providing services, what kinds of services, at what location, on what days and at what times, at what costs?
The brochure should be available on line, at medical facilities, in bars/restaurants, at schools, in houses of worship.
In other words, each county should be bombarded with the information about services in that county. And each month, the old information should be updated. This, of course, must be funded, and all those agencies must cooperate for the greater good of making information available.
Drug addiction is our problem as a county, a state, a nation, and we must own it and have a comprehensive plan for addressing it. Sharing information about resources is just one starting point.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.