Step one: cleanse the skin?
There are 23.5 million people working through drug recovery in the United States.
In 2016, more Americans died of drug overdoses than died in the war in Vietnam.
The statistics are staggering. And yet, we still are grappling with how to respond to the public health crisis. We’re also struggling with how to support those who are in treatment.
Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed in The Huffington Post from Ryan Hampton, a former aide to President Bill Clinton.
I knew that Americans with substance use problems face terrible discrimination in the workplace. A 2004 study by Faces & Voices of Recovery showed that 27% of people would not hire an otherwise qualified applicant who was openly in long-term recovery. That’s discrimination, and it’s perfectly legal: people like me don’t enjoy the same protections that other minorities do in the workplace. Although everyone agrees that the stigma of addiction is harmful, it still influences how people like me are viewed. It affects our ability to find meaningful work, quality medical care, housing, and other basic human needs.
We’re speaking with Hampton, and also with Chris McGreal, a reporter for [The Guardian] who has a new book out on the opioid epidemic. “American Overdose” tells us how the prescriptions for opioids spiraled out of control.
Here’s a short excerpt, published in The Guardian
Pharma’s lobbyists worked to persuade Congress and the regulators that to curb opioid prescribing would be to punish the real victims because of the sins of the “abusers”, and it worked. As a result, the devastation ran unchecked for another decade and more. By 2010, doctors in the US were writing more than 200m opioid prescriptions a year. As the prescribing rose, so did the death toll. Last year, more than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, the vast majority from opioids, nearly 10 times the number at the time Ballantyne published her warning.
The head of the FDA at the time OxyContin was approved for distribution two decades ago, Dr David Kessler, later described the opioid crisis as an “epidemic we failed to foresee”. “It has proved to be one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine,” he said.
Kessler was wrong. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a betrayal.
President Trump has suggested that the opioid epidemic is one of his priorities, and he just signed a bipartisan bill that curbs drug shipments and lifts treatment restrictions, among other measures? Will these efforts be effective? What’s left to do? How many searing personal anecdotes will it take before the opioid epidemic is solved?
- Mary Bono Former Member of Congress (R-CA); Co-Founder, The Collaborative for Effective Prescription Opioid Policies; @MaryBonoUSA
- Chris McGreal Author, "American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts"; Reporter, The Guardian; @ChrisMcGreal
- Ryan Hampton Author, "American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis and How To End It"; Recovery Advocate, Facing Addiction; @RyanForRecovery
- Dr. Andrew Kolodny Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research, Brandeis University; Executive Director, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing; @andrewkolodny
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Preet Bharara is the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.