The Addiction Epidemic, and How You Can Help CategoriesTo Your Health & Sanity

The Addiction Epidemic, and How You Can Help

We are losing a whole generation to addiction…

We are still in an epidemic inside a pandemic.  The world has changed this past year and unfortunately, addiction has hit the highest rates yet.   The overdoses in our community have increased tremendously and the families affected by addiction are suffering.  Now is the time to speak up and get educated on addiction as well as solutions to this crisis.

I am a mom and I have been in recovery from addiction for over thirteen years.  My daughter was born in withdrawal from heroin.  My drug use started when I was twelve and didn’t stop until I was twenty-six.  During the last nine of those years, my addiction was to opiates/heroin/any opioid I could get.  Addiction doesn’t discriminate, it affects all walks of life.

There is hope. There are so many people like me in our community that are in recovery and have changed their lives.  But there are also so many that didn’t make it and have passed away.  Many were parents.  The average age of those losing their lives to addiction is 22-35.  Their children are usually raised by their grandparents because that is who is left behind to pick up the shattered pieces.  This epidemic has taken a huge toll on grandparents nationwide. 

The most common pathway to addiction is via pain medication. In the course of my work with addiction recovery, I have so often seen individuals who were prescribed opiates from a doctor because of an injury or surgery, and when the opiates ran out and the pain remained, most started to use heroin. 

There is so much shame that comes with addiction.  Families often don’t want any of their friends or community to know that their child/family member has an addiction.  I feel I have been judged for my past, especially because I am a woman and used while I was pregnant. THIS MUST STOP. This judgment makes recovery even harder.

While shame and silence are understandable reactions, keeping silent and worrying about what the neighbors will think is not how to help someone suffering from addiction. There is hope and there is help for the addict as well as for the family. 

Education about addiction is a clear solution. When I share my story now, I get a lot of positive feedback, which is uplifting, empowering, and life-changing.  My recovery has helped to heal my family and the relationship with my daughter. I am able to walk in my purpose every day by helping others like me. 

How you can help……….

Advocacy and caring voices are going to be the key.  Those suffering from addiction need help and someone speaking up on their behalf. I have been in this field for over 13 years and thankfully I am seeing the voices speaking up are more and stronger every day. 

I think even if you have not been affected by addiction, it is important to keep an open mind and become educated because this problem is complex, society-wide and growing. For example, you can watch programs like The Pharmacist on Netflix, which provides insight into the easy availability of opiates.  I believe all pharmacists should be aware of the signs of addiction and have a way to report back to the consumer’s doctor if a problem is suspected. 

Also, there still needs to be more funding for Recovery Community Organizations: Call your policymakers and advocate for funding for NGOs (Non-government agencies) like the McShin Foundation, where I found recovery and where I have worked for over a decade to help others in recovery.

Family support is key. Because of their lived experience, family peer providers understand the informational, emotional, and resource-related challenges that come with having a family member in recovery from Substance Use Disorder.

Also, check your medicine cabinets.  Safely discard medications you do not use or will not use again.  Get a medication lockbox for medications you take that are addictive and that could pose a threat to young people in your life. 

Together we can make a difference.

Here are some additional resources and information.

Virginia Department of Health Quarterly Drug Death Report FINAL Q2 2020

Amazon – Grandparenting Children Addicted Parents Experiences

Grandfamilies Fact Sheet

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Founded in 2004, The McShin Foundation is Virginia's leading non-profit, full-service Recovery Community Organization (RCO), committed to serving individuals and families in their fight against Substance Use Disorders. While providing the tools for recovering individuals to create positive lifestyles, we aim to spread the word of recovery and educate families, communities, and government regarding SUDs as well as reduce the stigma attached to them. McShin is the only RCO in Virginia accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS).