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How to Cure the Opioid Epidemic in the United States

Nancy is an everyday woman with a love for staying active, participating in sports, and outdoor activities.

Opioid Epidemic Fractures Lives

The opioid crisis affects everyone.

The opioid crisis affects everyone.

Conquering the Opioid Crisis

Conquering the opioid crisis is now a major goal of lawmakers all across our country. Most people are aware of this epidemic, but give it little thought until it actually touches their life in a personal way. That was exactly the case for me. Until I actually became acquainted with a heroin addict, I gave this subject very little thought. Of course, I was aware of the unlawful sales of prescription drugs, and knew in general terms of skyrocketing illegal drug use, but it hadn’t yet touched my life in any personal way.

Then I met someone who confessed to me his heroin habit. We had business dealings together, and although I knew something was going drastically wrong with his behavior, I was absolutely shocked when he confided to me that he was using heroin. He didn’t look like my vision of a drug addict. In fact, he reminded me of the grown up version of the little boy, Opie, on The Andy Griffith Show.

We ended up having many long and difficult conversations about his use of heroin and how it affected his life and the lives of those around him. I tried to help him. To somehow motivate him to quit. Over and over and over again. I watched him suffering withdrawal symptoms and listened to his accounts of what his life was like on a daily basis. I saw the lengths he would go to just to maintain his connections to his suppliers. I saw the deterioration of his quality of life and his willingness to continue living that way just so he could keep using the drug.

It is because of this experience that I began focusing on a plan for how to solve the problem of the opioid crisis in America and I believe that I have come up with one easy plan to combat illegal use of opioids in our country. Here is what I think would solve or greatly reduce the problem.

Grow Where You are Planted

Encourage growth in addicts by allowing them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.

Encourage growth in addicts by allowing them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.

The Role of the Addict in Solving the Opioid Epidemic

Drug addicts play the primary role in solving this epidemic. We all are hearing much talk in the news about lawmakers concerns about this problem, but we hear very little about the drug addicts.

Our current laws basically classify addicts as being disabled people. This has been going on so long that now addicts do not seem to be held accountable for their own actions in breaking the laws over and over again.

My friend essentially told me that he and other addicts really cannot be held accountable simply because they are addicts, and it isn’t their fault that they continue to commit crimes on a daily basis.

Let us be clear about this: it is, in fact, a crime to possess illegal drugs. It is a crime to sell illegal drugs. It is a crime to purchase illegal drugs. Period.

Lawmakers and so-called helping organizations have so far done nothing but to enable our addicts to continue using.

I feel differently about this. It is my belief that we do need to start holding our drug users accountable for their actions. In feeding their habits, they are committing crimes on a daily basis in procuring and possessing their supply of drugs. We need to make them aware of the fact that they are breaking the law and committing crimes.

Up to this point, our governmental system has created an environment that has taught these people to be helpless. They begin to actually believe that it is okay to do what they are doing. My friend would often say, “I’m an addict. It’s just who I am and who I will always be. I was born with it.” This is what his counselors and social workers taught him.

Wrong. I will say that again. It is wrong for our social workers and welfare agencies to tell these people that being an addict is their whole self-concept. Doing so teaches them to continue being an addict.

Instead, we need to teach them that their addiction is a result of the choices they are making. We need to hold them accountable for those choices. It may be true that some people are born with a predisposition to physically be more susceptible to substance addiction, but there are many people walking around with that same physical quality who do not become addicts.

The Rational of an Active Drug User

The Government’s Role in Solving the Opioid Problem

Our government’s role in stopping the opioid problem is really very simple. They must create a no-nonsense plan for dealing with this problem that is consistent across all of the states in our country. This is one situation that could not and should not be block-granted to states. Laws and best practices should be consistent in order to avoid complications of crossing state lines.

Up to now, we have spent millions and millions of dollars on the War on Drugs to no avail. The intentions were good, but the outcome was not. The equation is really a pretty simple marketing concept involving supply and demand. Here in the United States, there is a demand. As long as the demand continues, the suppliers will find a way to fill it so that they can get rich from the debasing of human lives.

In large part, our government needs to focus on reducing the demand. I agree that suppliers need to be stopped and punished heavily, but more focus needs to be put on eliminating the demand.

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Life Can Be Beautiful

It is hard to use tough love, but sometimes it is necessary.

It is hard to use tough love, but sometimes it is necessary.

The Role of Social Services in Curing the Opioid Epidemic

The role of social services and welfare agencies in curing the opioid epidemic needs to change drastically if those agencies are to have a positive impact in reducing the demand for illegal drugs.

Up to this point, laws were enacted to protect addicts from being held accountable for their own addiction behaviors. We have been taught that we need to be sensitive and supportive to addicts. That if they don’t show up for work, it is okay because they have a disease called addiction. That employers must go easy on them so their feelings are not hurt. After all, they are addicts and they can’t help breaking the laws or being a bad employee. We must make our good employees work harder and longer and faster to compensate for the addict.

I am sure the practices and laws were initiated with good intentions, but at some point this just has to stop. We spend millions and billions of tax payer dollars to pay for the cost of treatment for these addicts every year. And guess what they do? They get the welfare system to pay for treatment. According to my friend, the motivation to go to treatment usually coincides with the fact that they just committed a crime and don’t want to go to jail, as in the case of one story in which the addict recounted the events leading up to her decision to seek treatment. Apparently, she and a drug using friend were out of drugs and out of money. They tried all of their connections, but nobody would front them any drugs. So they were cruising around and decided to rob a convenience store.

The next day she was very worried that she would end up in jail, so she went into the welfare agency and told them she wanted to go to treatment. They signed her up at our expense. We paid for it. You and me.

Guess what? She went to treatment and ran away in less than 48 hours. And we paid for it.

Then she did it again, and this time she stayed for almost 72 hours before running away from the treatment center.

Then she did it again and ran away after one week.

And every single time, our state tax dollars paid for it.

Now, I have no problem paying for treatment, but if the state tax dollars are paying the bill, then the drug addict should be required to stay, and if they leave treatment, they should go to jail for a minimum of 6 months.

Why am I being so harsh? Well, because when a person tells the state welfare system that they are an addict, they are essentially admitting to numerous and continuing counts of criminal wrong-doing. Remember earlier when I talked about accountability?

Simply put, we cannot afford to keep paying for treatment without requiring the addict to complete the course of treatment. Our country just doesn’t have enough money to continue to do that.

Which leads me to the conclusion and my easy plan for curing the epidemic.

Don't Have a Wasted Life

Something pretty to look at.

Something pretty to look at.

Let your voice be heard.

One Easy Plan to End the Opioid Epidemic

Here is my easy plan to call an end to the opioid epidemic in a nutshell.

  1. Tougher penalties for doctors who over prescribe. I know every time I have been prescribed pain pills for injuries, the prescription is limited and not refillable without doctor approval. However, several years ago I had an acquaintance who had a disability of diabetic foot pain. Her doctor prescribed large amounts of these pain killers and she actually confessed to this writer that she was using them as a supplemental income, charging $35.00 per pill.
  2. Tougher penalties for people who sell their prescribed pills to others. When this acquaintance was caught, she got out of it by ratting out others. Then she waited a while and seemed to start up her supplemental income again. We need tougher penalties. The expense of jailing these people is still less than the expense of the damages they cause and the tax dollar we spend on treatment and running people through the courts over and over again. If the penalties were tougher and actually enforced, people would think twice before committing the crime.
  3. Hold addicts accountable. These people are committing drug crimes, crimes of theft, destruction of property, and even violent crimes. The need to become aware that being an addict does not excuse them from the consequences of their choices. Claiming to be an addict should not put them above the laws. Sorry, I invaded your home and stole all your stuff, but I’m an addict, so it isn’t my fault I did it. Really? Are we going to continue on this path?
  4. Require treatment. This is how welfare agencies and lawmakers could deal with the demand aspect of drug addiction: an addict asks your state’s welfare agency to send them to treatment. The agency agrees, but with the following stipulation: the addict is notified that by seeking treatment they are admitting to numerous counts of unlawful activity. Because of this, the addict must complete a six month course of treatment that involves a minimum of three months inpatient treatment and two years of intensive outpatient treatment involving required group meetings and attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings. With attendance to be verified by the meeting chairperson. Or the 12-step meeting to be conducted by the state agency so that attendance can be tracked.
  5. Jail if you flee from treatment: If the addict runs away from treatment, or fails to complete the outpatient process, they go to jail for a minimum of six months with no possibility of early release.

I know this may sound harsh, but what addicts do is harsh. The way they hurt others with their drug abuse is harsh. The crimes they commit are harsh.

We, as a society have conditioned them to truly believe that it is okay for them to commit these crimes because they are not responsible for their addiction.

An update on my friend: He has finally gotten five months of being clean under his belt, but it seems the drug cravings continue to cycle in his system. He wants to use when he is happy, and when he feels stress, and when he feels irritation at someone. He continues to resist going to meetings because he wants to just be “over” it. He is working and has changed locations to be away from his connections. He has gained weight and looks healthy. He works out a lot, and we have talked about the fact that maybe he has exchanged heroine for dopamine. Will he ever get to the point where he doesn’t need the dopamine rush? Better that than heroine.

He needs my prayers and yours. And my prayers go out for every addict who is truly trying to kick the habit.

© 2017 Nancy Owens


Nancy Owens (author) from USA on December 11, 2017:

Hello, Ram Ramakrishnan. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. I agree this is a sad and complex situation. When our tax dollars must be used to treat those addicts who cannot afford to pay for this treatment, it becomes a very costly project, and complex, because each human being responds to treatment in a unique way. I have come in contact with many active and former addicts in my work over the years, and see some commonalities across addiction types and drugs of choice, also some differences as well. I agree that the people working to develop programs for treatment as well as enforcing the laws as they exist do need our support and encouragement. You sound like a wise man.

Ram Ramakrishnan on November 22, 2017:

It is indeed sad to see so many lives wasting away all around due to drug addiction. Those actively involved in attempting to contain it certainly require all encouragement.

Nancy Owens (author) from USA on November 06, 2017:

Thank you, as well, Linda! The nature of addiction is paradoxical, I think. The person may want recovery, but the withdrawal process overrides good sense and the best of intentions.

So, of course, no addict in the throws of withdrawal is going to actually want to stay in treatment. And here is another thought: I think that these drugs may stay in the system by way of our liver storage system, and then be released during times of intense physical activity or something, and give the person a mild "high". I know they say it is out of their system in three days, but I still think there is something that cycles in my friend's system that coincides with intense cravings for the drug.

What do you think?

P.S. Sorry this reply took so long... I was laying sub floor in the other half of my living / kitchen, lol!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 27, 2017:

This is an interesting and thought-provoking article, Nancy. A solution for the opioid crisis certainly needs to be found as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I wish more people would think about changes that need to be made to the system.

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