It Takes a Villain … authored by Merlyn Karst
Definitions of villain generally contain the word evil. Evil is called malicious, causing misfortune, and harm. Villainy is the state of being evil. In religion, ethics, philosophy, and psychology “good and evil” constitute a very common dichotomy. Evil is usually considered to be the opposite of good, in which good should prevail and evil should be defeated. Over the years the war on drugs has evidenced this common dichotomy. There are good drugs and bad drugs. There is danger in taking drugs that are used just to feel good or not feel at all. How the drugs are used is what can make them bad. Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo once said., “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” No blame, no shame. We need information and education.
We are now facing an opioid epidemic. The misuse and abuse of a beneficial drug has created a national crisis. Through ignorance and/or subterfuge we ignored known brain science that told us of the possibility—if not probability—of the addictive nature of opiates. In1996, Purdue introduced OxyContin, time released oxycodone, for chronic pain patients—marketed as non-addictive. The rest is history and history is still being tragically made. Sam Quinones is the author of Dreamland—The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. In the book, He chronicles the history about prescription drugs and destroyed communities that brought us to this crisis. Quinonus recently testified to the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions committee. He emphasized that solutions lay within communities and counties. He spoke of opportunities to deal with incarceration as an opportunity treat addicts. Most importantly he spoke of recruiting persons and families to share of the power of their stories to overcome stigma associated with addiction.
We know that as prescription pills become harder to get and more expensive, black tar heroin from Mexico becomes readily available. Now illicit drugs and synthetics like Fentanyl are linked to more overdoses than any other drug, including painkillers. Ironically, the availability of a “good” drug, Nalaxone HCI (NARCAN), can prevent overdose deaths. There are professionals with knowledge of the science of addiction who can prescribe appropriate drugs. Methadone, buprenorphine, naloxone, and naltrexone can all be effective in treating opioid addiction. Medications are often an important part of treatment, but essential to be combined with behavioral therapies. All lead to the essential ability to think clearly and responsibly. Recovery from addiction leads to physical and mental well-being and alternatives to prolonged medicinal drug use.
Previously and presently, there are stories from Ohio and elsewhere showing community councils and coalitions are fighting back. These stories have the power to persuade us to give full attention and that must action be taken. Crisis presents opportunity. It has been written that it takes a village to raise a child. For our children and all of us, all the nation’s villages must face and overcome the crisis of the evil that is drug misuse and addiction. In the Colorado Betty Ford Children’s Program, illustrated books for children, portray addiction as a scary villainous character that destroys families. We must defeat the villains who provide drugs and the villainy that may result in death. Armies have been raised to fight real or perceived evil. We gather by the thousands to march against whom and what we perceive as evil. We identify or invent villains. From these marches may emerge a movement. It should be noted: A march does not a movement make. Marches provide dynamics, but movements provide policies and purpose Faces and Voices of Recovery, and Young People in Recovery, national organizations, represent a movement involving millions in or seeking long-term recovery. Perseverance and sustainability are critical to individuals and to these movements.
The recent Congressional agreement will increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion and raise spending meant to address the opioid and mental health crisis by $6 billion over the next two years. We should know what other evil drugs are being developed by other lab villains. Our Colorado “villages” are populated with agencies and persons with knowledge about effective use of funds, at the local level. Funds—not trickled down, but a long and dependable flow down— with fiscal oversight and with few ties that bind. The plan includes public prevention programs, and law enforcement activities related to Substance use disorder (SUD) under mental health programs. Critical to sustainability will be the need the long-term benefit of shared lived experience of peers in recovery and recovery support services. There are resources available along the front-range who provide Peer Coach training leading to a Colorado Peer and Family Specialist Certification (CPFS). Among those are: Peer Coach Academy, Advocates for Recovery, and Springs Recovery Connection. The economic and social value is immeasurable. We can defeat the villainy of drug addiction but movements need motivation and motion. So—let’s roll.