Are we really normalizing this epidemic?

While driving in the car listening to the radio, an advertisement came on that caught my attention.

Two people attending a party were talking about what happened to a fellow partygoer.

It went something like this…

1st person: “Did you hear what happened to Jen?”

2nd person: “No, what happened?”

1st person: “She overdosed in the bathroom.”

2nd person: “Oh no! That’s awful!”

1st person: “Thankfully, someone had Naloxone. She’s okay now.”

That was the gist of the conversation.

Here is what Naloxone is used for:

“Naloxone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone.”[1]

To me, the advertisement for this drug was shocking.

I wasn’t shocked that the overdose medication worked as it was intended in this fictional scenario.

I was shocked that as a society we are normalizing the widespread opioid epidemic.

According to the Center on Foreign Relations, “Fentanyl and other opioids are fueling the worst drug crisis in the history of the United States. More than 1,500 Americans per week die from taking some type of opioid, making the drug by far the leading cause of fatal overdoses in the country.”[2]

Opioid abuse is on the rise and we should be talking about it and asking questions:

  • Why are millions of people addicted to opioids – especially younger people?
  • Why are we experiencing so much pain – both physical and/or emotional?

Something is happening within our society, and it’s not good.

Currently, the leading cause of death in people aged 18-45 is opioid overdose.

“Overdoses involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, are the leading cause of U.S. deaths in people ages eighteen to forty-five. In 2021, the overall death toll surged to 80,411.”[3]

Young people, in the prime of their lives, are opting out of this world.

Why?

If someone is happy and healthy, and feeling good in their body, mind, and spirit, the desire for opioids is most likely non-existent.

But, our shocking statistics are letting us know that millions of people are suffering.

  • Not happy.
  • Not healthy in body, mind, spirit.
  • Not enjoying life.

A dear friend overdosed in February, 2020. He had a lifelong addiction to heroin and opioids. He was in pain – not physically – but emotionally. His was a slow suicide, over 20 years in the making. But, eventually he achieved his goal and checked out of this human experience at the halfway mark. He is no longer in pain.

I’m glad that Naloxone works to bring people back from an overdose. But, it’s only a band aid on a much deeper issue.

Overdoses are so common that the marketing for this pharmaceutical drug normalizes the experience to something that nonchalantly happens at a party.

This is a significant societal crisis.

We need to bring attention to this and make changes in our society as a whole.

Some suggestions:

  • Increase availability of alternative treatment programs for opioid addiction, like using psychedelic plants combined with counseling and behavioral therapies. The success rates of people using plant medicine and getting clean and staying clean is astounding. Even the National Institute for Health cannot deny that plant medicine works to free someone from addiction.
  • Implement community-based programs focused on prevention, such as after-school activities for teens and support groups for families affected by opioid addiction.
  • Address the socio-economic factors that contribute to drug abuse, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of education.
  • Launch campaigns to educate people about the risks of opioid misuse, the signs of addiction, and the availability of new treatment options.
  • Train medical professionals on the risks of opioid prescribing and offer non-opioid pain management strategies.

There is also power in prayer, and I would like to offer a prayer for peace to everyone touch by the opioid crisis.

Buddhist Prayer for Peace

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.

May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free.

May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.

May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses–the children, the aged, the unprotected–be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood (insert whatever word you are comfortable using here).

[1] https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naloxone#:~:text=Naloxone%20is%20a%20medication%20approved,heroin%2C%20morphine%2C%20and%20oxycodone.

[2] https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/fentanyl-and-us-opioid-epidemic

[3] https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/fentanyl-and-us-opioid-epidemic