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Here we are, a few steps into the New Year. We have happily toted some things from 2017 into 2018, left behind some baggage we grew too tired to haul and then there is all that has followed us into the New Year which hovers over us like a dark cloud. We can try to ignore it or outrun it or hide from it but it isn’t going anywhere. It is the dark cloud of drug abuse, overdoses, addiction. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
The drug crisis is notably greater in Massachusetts where Fentanyl is now involved in over half of all overdose fatalities. But this isn’t even the worst news. The worst news is that most of you reading this are already aware of the severity of the situation. The worst news is that we know that this crisis exists in our families, in our schools, with our friends or neighbors… We know and yet when one more obituary is published of a young person and the cause of death is omitted we know but it’s not discussed.
No matter what action is taken to treat drug abuse what must happen first is that a dialogue has to begin. We have to talk. We have to talk and engage within our families, with our neighbors, in our schools, churches and synagogues. We have to break the silence of shame. We have to stop treating the addicted as though they are monsters because when we do treat them like monsters then we can give ourselves a pass to not help them because, after all, who wants to help a monster?
Years ago, when I lived in NYC, I worked as a Substance Abuse Specialist with homeless people. Even back then we knew that the homeless addict or alcoholic would not come into an office seeking help. Everyday I went out to where they were, in the park, on the street. I met them where they were and we’d start talking. It is no different today. We need to acknowledge the problem by stepping out of our fear, shame, guilt self-image… and start talking about it. It is a first step. It is a step that we can all take. Who knows, this might lead to discussion groups, prayer groups, peer groups, medical forums.
The time for silence is long over. Start talking. The life you save may be your own because addiction doesn’t only ruin the addicts life it destroys the lives of families and friends.