About fifteen years ago I started having back problems. I kept hoping that it would go away but it just kept getting worse. Finally, after suffering sleepless nights and long days I went to the doctor. After trying several different treatments and nothing helping I resigned myself to the fact that prescription pain meds were going to be part of my life forever.
The problem began, as it typically does, when I realized that when I took my meds my brain “shut off”. By that I mean that for the first time in my entire life I knew what it felt like when people said they were “relaxing”.
I spent the next 12 years taking the meds my doctor prescribed and buying more when I ran out. The problem is that the first time that you start taking your meds for any reason other than why they were prescribed you have a problem, you just don’t admit it. I started taking them when I was mad or sad or happy or celebrating. It seemed as if I could no longer do the activities that I once enjoyed without being high.
It also became impossible to work unless I had pills. So, if I didn’t have any I would call in sick to begin the often relentless task of looking for drugs. The inevitable would eventually occur, I’d get fired or I would quit. When I would finally realize that I needed to go back to work for whatever reason, often times after not working for a year or two, I wouldn’t be able to get a job making what I had made before or that there weren’t any places that would hire me in my degree field because of lack of experience. My husband and I started having trouble paying our bills, even though we were both working full-time. It’s hard to pay the house payment and utilities and buy copious amounts of drugs. We eventually lost our house.
Earlier this month I was honored to be in our Nation’s Capital attending the 44th Annual National Jefferson Awards Foundation Ceremony. The Jefferson Awards recognize individuals from across the United States engaged in public service. In the words of Sam Beard, Co-Founder and President, ““the Jefferson Awards are the Noble Prize of Public Service.” I am honored to have been among the 50 individuals chosen to receive an award. For me, this is an opportunity to amplify the message that addiction, as a chronic brain disease, deserves the care and attention provided to other chronic diseases. The experience was incredible. Ordinary people doing extraordinary work to effect change in their communities, and getting acknowledged as such. The Jefferson Awards Foundation treated the honorees with style and class. I am grateful for the experience. And yet I am struck by how much more work must be done.
So many Americans still don’t know the magnitude or pervasiveness of this epidemic. The average person living an unaffected life does not understand addiction and the opioid epidemic. Struggling with addiction/ is still being judged, and considered a tragic experience only affecting others.
This story appeared in the Washington Times Herald on 7/30/15
by Maureen Hayden CNHI Statehouse Correspondent
INDIANAPOLIS - Sen. Jim Merritt was out walking his dog one evening in his quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac when a neighbor, Justin Phillips, stopped to
Phillips' son, Aaron, a former high school quarterback raised in the same
affluent suburban neighborhood where the conservative Merritt raised his
children, had died of a heroin overdose a few months earlier.
"She said, 'You knew Aaron. You knew he died. Why haven't you reached
out to me?'" Merritt recalls. "It was like a smack on the head."
Since that encounter nearly two years ago, Merritt has made heroin addiction a signature issue, and it's likely to remain so as he travels the state building name recognition for what's expected to be a gubernatorial run in 2020.
Once a champion of tough penalties for drug crimes, the Republican is now advocating a less punitive approach that emphasizes treatment over incarceration.
Merritt's emphasis is timely, as the heroin problem dramatically worsens. Opioid-related deaths have more than tripled in Indiana in the last decade. Heroin-related deaths themselves are increasing twice as fast.
Posted on TheStatehouseFile.com by Kate Stancombe on 6/8/15, to see the full story click here:
INDIANAPOLIS – Justin Phillips is a mother who believes she could’ve saved her son’s life if a heroin antidote had been available to her at the time of his death.
“What we really need is for it to be in the hands of normal people –
you and I, the other users or family members,” Phillips said.
Now, that’s possible.
A new state law allows Hoosiers to obtain a prescription for Naloxone if they are worried that a friend or family member might overdose.
Naloxone – also known as Narcan – is an intervention drug that reverses heroin overdose effects. The drug is administered through a syringe – without a needle – and shot into the user’s nose.
Once the drug is injected, it “awakens” the individual from an overdose.
Before Senate Bill 406 passed, only emergency workers – including first responders, EMTs and police officers – were allowed to carry the antidote. And in the past year, those workers have saved 1,000 lives using it.