I’ve decided to start a blog that addresses the opioid epidemic facing the United States. There are many reasons for this, but the one that sparked me to start now is the level of misinformation (and accompanying ignorance) around us. There are widely misreported statistics and inferred facts from them, uninformed public policy decisions, and the outright blaming of people who find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Ignorance impacts our society in many ways, but ignorance in this arena costs people their lives. And so I have decided to write.
I’ve written a lot in the past. I made no attempts to gain a reader base but I may try here. As is often the case at the outset of a new project, you start out with a general vision and daily actions may take you in any one of many different directions. I plan to write about what I find interesting – it may not always have a deeper agenda.
Who is writing this (the relevant parts)
My team and I started a healthcare clinic to manage and treat opioid dependency. This has put us on the front lines of the crisis in directly taking care of people who are trying to remove opioids from their lives – including heroin, fentanyl, and painkillers. This puts us in a position to see all aspects to the recovery process, including what causes someone to relapse or drop out of treatment. We also see what works and what doesn’t.
Our work has not only put us in touch with patients during some of the most vulnerable times in their lives, but also shown us all the barriers they face in accessing treatment. Some of those barriers are unnecessary ones – they have slowed us down as we fought to open, grow to a second clinic, or accept different insurance plans. We know the process from beginning to end to grow a multi-clinic practice. Equally so, and perhaps more important, we see the process of taking someone through treatment from complete reliance on opioids to no longer needing us.
These insights are missing from the national dialogue and many are not considered when attempting to address this epidemic.
That word – “epidemic” – is sometimes thrown around loosely or misused, and in that sense it has lost some of the sharpness to its meaning. I may seem overly dramatic to a reader who is not directly connected to this crisis, but if you find the time to read what I’m writing I do think you’ll agree with me on the severity of this issue. Or you will once you lose someone close to you.
I have a tendency to write long posts, but I will attempt to keep these short and digestible. I’ll leave you with how I think about our patients – their fears, their hopes, their struggles. Perhaps by the end you’ll get to know them as I have.
They are survivors, fighting harder than the rest of us just to get by. Some are homeless; some ride the bus for hours to see us (in each direction); many are victims of abuse either recently or in childhood; some have psychiatric conditions that prevent normal activities in daily life; some have the court system strangling their ability to function; and even so, they are not entirely lost.
They are an endearing people. They have a certain culture about them that I haven’t seen anywhere else. And the skillsets I’ve observed in our patients are to be admired – it’s not infrequent that I find myself surprised. They have faced complex problems that your everyday person wouldn’t be able to understand, which makes connecting with them difficult. At least at first.
I actually prefer them to people I meet in my everyday life. They are somehow more real.
What they need are more people to give them a chance. To have their problems understood. Because they need to beat this ugly thing they’re dealing with.
That’s what this blog is for - it’s for each and every one of you beautiful people. Hopefully this can help bring some light into the dark room we find ourselves.