There is an increasing, systemic awareness of how opiates (opium, heroin & other organic derivatives) and opioids (synthetic, similar acting pharmaceutical compounds) are being used with increasingly tragic outcomes. Sadly, there has been a major increase in overdoses among individuals across all socio-economic classes.
This New York Times story [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/health/cdc-opioid-guidelines.html?emc=eta1&_r=0] cites nationwide overdose rates that would shock most consumers and patients who might consider themselves too educated, or well-informed to find themselves or their family members among the statistics.
At the national level, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recently published guidelines for prescribers of painkillers to respond to the increasing epidemic. (http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html) I’m proud to say that my clinical associate, Dr. Nathaniel Moore of the Addiction Recovery Center for Healing (ARCHdetox.com) in Aurora, Colorado adopted these prescription guidelines voluntarily. Much more needs to be done. Guidelines such as these can only be effective when prescribers such as Dr. Moore are philosophically in line with these practices and procedures.
On the local level, however, there needs to be a much more integrated and systemic approach to addressing opioid and heroin addiction.
High schools — increasingly the “grieving grounds” for overdoses — are the critical points of education and intervention in the struggle with moderate-to-severe levels of illicit drug use. While there is growing awareness about drug use —from marijuana to heroin — in many of our high schools, there needs to be more guidance and active response. And this is just a first step.
We’re also seeing innovative new programs in education including recovery high schools that don’t kick students out when they relapse.
Some colleges and universities now offer sober dormitories and drug courts that engage addicts and their families from a perspective of restorative (vs retributive) justice.
Families must also be reached and educated wherever and whenever possible. A surprising number of families have no idea their sons or daughters are addicted to opioids until it’s too late. Well-informed Parents and loved ones trained to see the signs of addiction can intervene before it’s too late.
Churches, mosques and temples can also be great sources of support for addiction. Many publish adapted 12-step literature with doctrinal insights that enjoin the trust of their adherents.
As a licensed clinical interventionist, I design and offer public talks and open discussions about illicit drug use for schools, families, and churches respectively. Communities are eager to address drug abuse and addiction in proactive ways.
I encourage other clinical specialists with substance use knowledge to act in the same public health manner. It is time for the behavioral health community to fully assume its role in helping schools and families take effective action.
David Petersen, LCSW, LAC, March 28, 2016