List two things you think need to happen that will help put an end to the opioid crisis.
There needs to be more education in classrooms starting at a young age, but I hate to pawn all that off on teachers. Teachers already have enough to teach these kids. And we need to get rid of the stigma that surrounds addiction. Get rid of the stigma and help people learn that addiction really is a disease. It is a mental illness. Growing up I can remember driving in downtown Indianapolis and seeing drug addicts on the corner and making bad comments about them. Get rid of the stigma and make it a certified disease. From what I’ve read, our military is protecting people in other countries that are growing poppies. Why are we protecting them when they’re sending drugs over here?
There are some countries that have legalized heroin to the point where people can go there to get their drugs. A lot of people think that’s counterproductive, but it is a safe place to get drugs and the drugs are not adulterated with other components like fentanyl that will kill people. That’s a bonus. The other part is if you have injection sites, you then have a captive audience and you can encourage people to get into treatment and into mental health programs. Harm reduction is important.
Well, that’s the million-dollar question. I’m a big believer in prevention and education. Here’s why I say that: we’re going to see a decline in overdoses in the next two to three years. And the reason why is because if you look at the age range of individuals who are really struggling in the overdose world – people in their late 20s all the way up to their early 40s – we see a lot of deaths in this age range. The group with the next highest number of deaths is college kids and high school kids. Those are the individuals who were in the uneducated generations. The kids in high schools right now, they know. They are educated on heroin. They are tired of seeing their neighbors die. Or maybe it was their mom who died. Or maybe it was their sibling who died. Or maybe dad is in prison and they’re in foster care now. That’s where that change is going to take place. Heroin will see a turnaround. Now granted, we’re still going to see some new users. I get that. But these kids nowadays,they’re not into depressants. They’re not into heroin. Cocaine is making a big comeback. Meth has never gone away. One of the things that we’re going to see is overprescribed mental health prescriptions. We’re going to see a lot of kids being overprescribed antidepressants. Suicide rates are increasing rapidly and you’re going to continue to see that. But you’ll see a decline in overdoses within a few years.
So I would say continue to work on prevention and education and make sure these kids know what’s out there. And I wouldn’t be afraid to crack down on the criminal aspect of things too. For every three people who say jail is not the answer, I can find you three people who say jail is what got them sober. So I’m not afraid of a three-strike or four-strike policy, whatever the case may be. I don’t have the answer on how many chances these individuals get. I think it varies on a case-to-case base. But a lot of these individuals have lost everything other than their freedom. They’ve lost their career. They’ve lost their marriage. They’ve lost their house. They’ve lost their children and they still are using. So maybe they should have a taste of losing their freedom as well. And it is not because we want to treat them as criminals. Also, we need to do a better job incorporating mental health and addiction into our system and jails and prisons. We just don’t have it at the level we need. I think jails and prisons are doing a little bit better incorporating some of that in there. But we’re a long way away from it. We need to tie those two things together.
First, we have to work to remove the stigma around opioids and particularly heroin use—and that it is a shameful thing to talk about. We still don’t want to talk about it. I mean, my daughter doesn’t want it to be her identity. It’s not like you are going to walk around and be proud of it. People still think that they are a bad person because of it. This is something that sneaks up on you and takes you. And if you have the right genes in your body, it doesn’t take more than one time. Take it once, dopamine gets released and it’s all over. It’s a done deal. You just want to go back to that dopamine release, whether you get that from drugs or alcohol or games or sex.
The second thing is probably continuing education with medical professionals as far as dosing goes. We’ve made great strides here, but it has been more legislative and not necessarily medical from what I understand.
That’s the million dollar question. If I knew I would be pretty darn rich. Yeah it’s just crazy to have something like this and nobody really knows what to do. It is getting better.
My two things are harm reduction and get the supply under control. A lot of people hate harm reduction because they’re not educated about it. They can’t understand why you would want to give somebody clean needles. Why would you give anybody any needles? Why don’t you just give them heroin if you’re given them needles? And Narcan – why can’t a drug addict get Narcan if a diabetic can get insulin or a heart patient is going to have paddles used on them for free? It’s a lifesaving thing. And then they’re going to get treatment for their heart disease. Well, Narcan is only a lifesaving thing. And they’re not getting free treatment after. And by the way, if we could figure out a way to pay for it, wouldn’t you be happy for him to get help and treatment?
Shelly: Relapse prevention treatment is huge. Addiction is a lifelong disease. They need to have a community and supports and all kinds of tools right there for the rest of their life. To get them through the roughest part those first five years, there needs to be better treatment.
Travis: We have to understand this as a disease. The debate on whether this is a disease or not is what’s keeping this problem going longer than it should. Because if we don’t understand it as a disease, then we’re going to always respond with, “You knucklehead, why can’t you stop?” And we’re never going to invest time, money or resources in a knucklehead. Because we just don’t. That’s who we are. But if we understand it as a disease, then we can respond the way we do with every other disease. And that’s with love and compassion. So that’s the number-one thing.
Then two: Relapse prevention is the absolute next step. Your journey through recovery is a lifelong process. So what we’re going to do at Hope United is we’re not going to be with you just for the day, or for the week or even the year; we’re going to be with you for as long as you need somebody beside you. And that is what long-term sobriety is. It’s a lifelong transformation. If you talk to anybody who’s in long-term recovery, they’re going to tell you that they work on it every single day.
Wayne – I think it is a supply and demand situation. No matter what you think of our president – bat shit crazy or whatever – he is doing the right thing. He is going to try to cut off the largest source of drugs. A 25 billion dollar operation comes out of Mexico alone. We have to at least stop that. And where does the demand come from? Our children. Schools need a K-12 curriculum about this. We have to educate our kids early on the dangers. And it just can’t be a program that is half-run. It doesn’t matter if a kid is really good at social studies, math or science. If they leave high school and they’re not with us 5 years later, what did we accomplish in the education process?
Christy – There is an organization called Drug Free Clubs of America. They started in Cincinnati. Wayne worked with that organization and got them started in our schools here and in some other schools throughout central Ohio. The gist of the club is high school students join this club and they vow to be drug free. They can be randomly drug tested throughout the year and they agree to this. They are given rewards for being drug free. They are given discounts, free items, parking spots, public recognition, and it gives them an out. So if they are at a party and someone offers them drugs, belonging to this club gives them an out.
Wayne – Peer pressure is the number one reason kids will try something. They will hear it from a friend. So if we can help kids get out of that tough situation where they really don’t want to try it but they are being pushed, the kid can say “I can’t because I might be drug tested tomorrow.” That will happen a few times and then the other kids will know not to ask anymore. And then that kid beat the leading cause of trying drugs or alcohol – and that’s peer pressure from a friend.
Christy – These kids are rewarded for just doing the right thing.
Wayne – Don’t wait for them to goof up and get punished.
Christy – Wayne was instrumental in getting Drug Free Clubs of America into our high schools and other schools near us. Our organization Tyler’s Light pays a huge portion of the fee that it costs for a student to be a part of this club. The student only pays $20.
Wayne – Tyler’s Light pays $30,000 – $40,000 this year just for the kids in our town. It is expensive, but you think hmm … what would you rather do with all of the money you are fundraising?
Christy – It goes to the kids. We’re having our 5K in 2 weeks for Tyler’s Light. This is the first time that the drug free clubs will be putting something big on right after the race over at the high school. They are having a food truck festival for Drug Free Clubs. The kids will be running it with their advisor at the school. The public can come and they will have games.
Wayne – So they will be having fun and raising money for a good cause. It is reassuring for parents to know that if their child is part of this Drug Free Club of America, their kid will be drug tested five times this year. That would be nice. It is just another way to battle this thing. There are 20 ways to fix this. You have to cut off the source so it is not so easy. Make it expensive. $5 for heroin. Why? Because it is just coming through in truck loads. What if it was $500 for heroin? That would take it off of the shelf.
Christy – People in the medical field like physicians and the medical industry have to be better educated. Over-prescribing has to get better. It has gotten better for sure but it has taken time. It has taken too long.