Heroin haters, don’t get hung up on the word disease (Opinion)
Popstar Demi Lovato overdosed the other day. Narcan was used to revive her. At first it was reported that it was a heroin overdose, although people close to her say it was something else but wouldn't elaborate. She's shared in the past having addiction issues with alcohol, cocaine and Oxycontin. So perhaps it was the latter. Opioid either way, nor does it really matter.
What matters is the heroin and opioid epidemic is getting worse in New Jersey. What matters is in 2010 deaths in New Jersey from drug overdoses were averaging 2 per day. In 2018 deaths in New Jersey from drug overdoses are averaging 8 per day. This shocking statistic comes from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's office and should serve as a wake up call to the rest of us. Hell, as a slap in the face to the rest of us.
Think about this. At this pace we will bury 2,920 people a year. This is a 9/11 of overdoses every...single...year. I used the word people and not residents, citizens or New Jerseyans by design. Because that's what we need to start letting sink in. These are people. Too many haters are so disgusted with heroin and opioid addicts that the stigma is just born anew with each death. It's that very stigma, in part, that keeps people from seeking help. It's that stigma that feeds this beast. That stigma exists because too many folks have decided the solution is simple. Just say no. Just don't do it.
I'll call them the heroin haters. Heroin haters might not understand that once the addiction takes hold, addicts aren't shooting up or smoking or snorting to get high and party. They're doing it simply to stop being sick. The sickness is the withdrawal, and it is so devastating that a person whose mind is already being affected by the drug cannot find the will to suffer through the endless days of agony.
Heroin haters have a big problem with the word disease. They argue (and they are not wrong) cancer is a disease, and you can't stop cancer just by sheer will power. They've decided it's a slap in the face to people with true diseases to call heroin and opioid addiction a disease. As a person with a serious disease, (I'm a Type 1 Diabetic otherwise known as Juvenile Diabetes) I can tell you I am not offended in the least.
Whatever you call this, whether a disease or an emotional disorder or something else, the point is it's only a word. Let's stop losing thousands of people a year who, believe it or not, weren't always this way. Thousands of people who have families who love them. Thousands of people who, believe it or not, are just like the haters in so many ways. They've done kind things. They've contributed to society. They've helped neighbors and their communities. Then something happened. Something they couldn't break on their own. For the haters to stand there in judgment, dismissing them, barking about what word we call this problem as 2,920 people drop dead around them every year is part of the problem.
I believe the greatest gift God has given us is each other. Haters who have decided heroin addicts aren't worth saving and busy themselves with the semantics of addiction are leaving that gift in the box, unwrapped and untouched. If there should be a stigma about anything, it ought to be about that.
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