Opioid Addiction- The American Reality

Opioid Addiction Is The American Reality

Opioid addiction has become a large part of American lives. Two major events this week work towards taking Americans out of addiction's grip.

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Two major events have happened this week regarding the opioid epidemic. Firstly, John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of opioid spray company, Insys Therapeutics, has been arrested for bribing doctors to over-prescribe his potent product and committing fraud on insurance companies for profit. The fetayol spray can be 100 times more powerful and addictive than morphine. Even though the drug is so powerful, it has oftentimes been prescribed for things like toothaches or back pain. Many activists have been accusing companies of pushing the highly addictive products on patients for profit. The charges can help to add definitive proof and send a message to other pharmaceutical companies. It also sends the message that Big Pharma companies can and will be held accountable for their actions.

Secondly, Donald Trump has announced a commitment to "smash the grip of addiction." Trump promised to expand funding for opioid addiction recovery and increase scrutiny of big pharmaceuticals. Both of these are major events in decreasing the hold opioids has on Americans. In the last 20 years, overdoses caused by prescription opioids have claimed more than 200,000 lives, or one every 12 minutes. In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction and as many as 80 percent of heroin addicts started using prescription opioids first. States in the Midwest and East coast have been hit the hardest with opioid addiction and overdose rates.

When I was in high school, I distinctly remember reading an article about a woman whose teenage daughter became addicted and the endless struggle to get her clean. She reinforced throughout the article how surprised she was that opioid addiction would find its way to her suburban neighborhood and into her teenage daughter. Like the unsuspecting mother, I would also discover how opioid addiction was not just something sung about in rock songs.

Opioid addiction does not only affect addicts and their families but community members as well. A memory that haunts me was on an otherwise unmemorable Saturday. I was walking along the sidewalk with my friend from lunch, in Downtown Honolulu. Like most of Downtown Honolulu, the streets are filled homeless people suffering from addiction. As I continued to step around sleeping bodies, I made eye contact with a young woman laying along a dirty wall. Her skin was pale, and her eyes were almost completely white, and along her mouth was dried foam. I instantly could tell she was dead. It was like a scene from a horror movie and was later confirmed when I saw police shove her body into a blue body bag.

This would not be the last time that I would have to stare addiction in the eye. When I take the train to school, I have to purposely avoid looking around too much, because of all the times I accidentally caught someone shooting up in the corners. Even in my own circle of friends, I have lost too many friends to opiate addiction. Even if they have not overdosed yet, they are still lost. Unlike the high school reunions of my parents' generation, when I have not seen a friend in a few years, there is a chance I will be taken back by what I see. On multiple occasions, I have run into friends that have craters on their face and track marks on their arms.

It is a sad reality that many Americans experience. That's why I believe that opioid addiction is everyone's problem. Like a plague, it has found a way to creep into everyone's lives. Unlike most other diseases, it confronts passerbyers in public spaces and is a part of daily American life. Just like when I walked around the dead woman on the sidewalk, Americans are just navigating through their days, stepping around the problem.

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An Open Letter To The Parent That Chose Drugs Over Me

You should know this.
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There used to be a time when you made me feel loved and wanted.

I couldn't wait to come home after school knowing that you'd be waiting for me along with all of my favorite snacks, ready to give me a big hug and ask me how my day went. I used to sit in your lap while you helped me read my chapter books. You used to show up to things.

You used to get to know my friends. You used to encourage me. But you're not that person anymore. I watched as your addiction consumed you and turned you into a monster. Your loving words turned into hateful actions. I watched as you became angry at the world until your substances were the only thing that mattered anymore. Nothing was good enough for you, and nothing could save you... not even me.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

It took me a long time to realize what was even going on. I was old enough to know that drugs were bad, but still young enough that I had no idea what they looked like or how a person may act while taking them. I didn't know that when you locked yourself in your room with strangers you were getting high, or that it wasn't normal for people to sleep for twenty hours at a time.

I used to think that maybe if I had asked other adults more questions I would have figured it out sooner and you could have gotten help. I used to think that if maybe my sister and I didn't fight as much, or if I didn't complain every time you told me to do something, that maybe you wouldn't have been so stressed out all the time. But the truth is, it wasn't my fault. It wasn't my sister's fault.

This was all on you.

I didn't ask for a parent that was forced to enroll in various rehab programs, but that's what I got. I didn't ask for the letters you sent while you were in and out of jail, but I still read them all. I didn't want to explain to my friends' parents why your name was always in the paper, but I did it regardless.

All I ever actually wanted was for you to pick me for once in your life, but you couldn't do that.

When the going got tough, you just cowered away, too scared to confront your own demons. You had everyone else to blame, but you never took a second to think about what you were doing to us, no matter how much I begged and pleaded.

You ripped our family apart. You fucked me up.

What is a child to do when the one person in the whole world that is supposed to teach them love and affection hits them, tells them they're worthless, and leaves them to fend for themselves?

SEE ALSO: To The Children Growing Up Around Addiction

I promised myself several years ago that I would never become you. I would never let any kind of substance consume my life. I wouldn't lie, steal, and manipulate to get my way. I wouldn't become a “parent" to my children only when it's convenient for me. I would make something of myself.

It makes my blood boil to see you take credit for how I turned out. “I'm so proud of my baby. Raising you is the greatest thing I've ever done." Complete bullshit. You were never around to raise me. Any ounce of success I've tasted hasn't come from you or your guidance. If anything, you've only been a living demonstration of everything I shouldn't be.

I got to where I am today with absolutely no help from you. You don't get to come into my life now that I'm an adult and take all the credit. You don't get to try to dictate what I can and can't do as if you have some kind of authority on my decisions. You had your chance to raise me and be a part of my life, but you blew it. I don't owe you a single thing.


Cover Image Credit: Jordi Bernabeu

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Stop Demonizing CBD Just Because You Associate It With THC

CBD doesn't get you high, do your research.

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I'm sure you've heard about CBD already, but if not, then let me break it down for you. Cannabidiol, CBD, is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant, but unlike the THC in the marijuana plant, it doesn't have any psychoactive properties.

CBD doesn't get you high.

When extracted from the plant, CBD has proven to be effective in the medical field. It has shown to be effective in the treatment of epilepsy, in the management of pain, in reducing depression and anxiety, and relieving cancer symptoms, among a host of other uses. New research from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has revealed that CBD may be beneficial for society as a whole, too.

Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital conducted the study to understand how we can fight the opioid epidemic through the discovery of alternative treatment options by assessing the potential effects of CBD on craving and anxiety in heroin users.

42 drug abstinent men and women between the ages of 21 and 65, who had recently stopped using heroin, were recruited for the study. Two groups were formed out of the participants: a control group that received a placebo and a test group that received CBD doses ranging from 400 mg to 800 mg per day. After administration, participants were exposed to neutral environmental cues and cues that would be considered drug-use inducing over three sessions. The cues in the environment were tested because an addict's environment and the cues it gives are the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use.

The results of the research hold great promise for the future of CBD.

Participants who were in the test group and given CBD had significantly reduced cravings for heroin, and noted feeling less anxiety when exposed to drug-use inducing cues. Moreover, the CBD had a lasting effect on this group as it continued to reduce cravings and relieve anxiety for seven days after the last dose was administered. In essence, this is the most important takeaway from the research: CBD had lasting effects well after it was present in the body. Numerous vital signs like heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation were taken to ensure only objective results were obtained since cravings and anxiety are subjective feelings. Another finding was a reduction in participants' heart rate and salivary cortisol levels, which would have both increased in the presence of anxiety-provoking images.

I think the evidence points to a logical conclusion: CBD is safe, it is effective in treating opioid addictions, and it is beneficial for those who experience a host of issues from pain, to anxiety, to epilepsy or to illnesses. Now is the time to keep pushing for legalization to continue larger scale studies and introduce CBD as a valid treatment option.

"A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll and enormous health care costs." - Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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