International Overdose Awareness Day

IOAD2020 More Important Than Ever
By Wayne Howard - Staff Writer/Lincoln Herald

In some respects, this reporter has been lucky.  I have avoided becoming addicted to any kind of drugs.  I do, however, know what addiction can do.  My late wife was addicted to alcohol.  While many talk about marijuana being a gateway drug, and research shows that it may be for some, most people who develop a drug problem begin with alcohol.  

Addicts become slaves to their addiction.  Some are able to function quite normally in most cases; they often hold down jobs without any problem, many of their friends and business associates don't even know they are addicts.  But eventually, in most cases, it catches up.  When it does, those sweet, loving, reasonable people become unrecognizable--they'll do anything to get the drug they need...and yes, they need it, because they are addicted.  It's no longer a desire to 'get high,' it's an insatiable physical need.

The various forms of addiction have become so much a part of our society that we don't pay it much attention until it reaches a point that makes it unavoidable.  So long as an addict can function with no noticeable problems, we ignore it.  When it reaches that point, far too many see it as a personal or family weakness, not as a disease.  I assure you, nobody chooses to become an addict.  I've known addicts who have died from their disease whose families did everything they possibly could to keep them from addiction and to help them get over it once it developed.  

There are programs that work; there are also others that are most likely in the 'rehab game' more for the money than for helping those who need help.  

While much of the attention recently has been focused on opioid addiction, there are those who have other addictions--other drugs of choice.  Methamphetamine addiction is perhaps even more present in today's world than opioid addiction.  All drug addictions have one thing in common--whether the drug to which the addict is a slave is meth or opioids or crack cocaine or alcohol:  the addict has a disease, and it's a disease that isn't going to get better without help.

I'm not going to ask you to wear a purple ribbon or dress in that color (adopted for Overdose Awareness) or to light a candle in memory of someone who died as a result of an overdose.  I am going to ask you to remember them as more than a statistic--as someone's son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother.  Their lives, cut short, meant something to someone.  

I am also going to ask you to refrain from thinking of addicts as weak or I said, nobody chooses to become an addict, and addicts include the rich and the poor, the young and the old, people of different religious preferences, lifestyles, ethnicities, etc.  I'm also asking you to avoid thinking that their parents or husbands or wives or sisters or brothers or co-workers didn't do enough to help them avoid or overcome their addiction.  The best efforts of those who love addicts are often not enough.

Take this day, International Overdose Awareness Day, to remember those who didn't survive.  Some had been addicts for years; a few had only taken the drug that killed them a few times.  Some made a bad choice; others got started on drugs because of illness or injury and long after their original physical pain may have subsided, a deeper pain developed that led to their demise.  

Please...recognize addiction for what it is--a disease.  We don't ask others with a disease to cure themselves; we shouldn't expect addicts to be able to do that either.  If you have--or fear you are developing--an addiction, it's important that you get help as quickly as possible.  Like other diseases, untreated, it only gets worse with time.  If you know someone who is headed down that path, please...ask them to get help, offer to help them find it, be supportive--not of their addiction but of their desire and effort to overcome it; and be understanding of their predicament.

Over 70,000 Americans die each year from overdoses.  The one piece of good news this day is: it doesn't have to be that way.  Like the coronavirus, it's a disease that is going to take a cooperative effort from all of us to stop its spread and save lives.  Won't you help?

I thought it would be worthwhile to add to this article a list of places people with addiction problems could turn for help.  I began my search by Googling 'where to turn for drug addiction help in Lincoln County, NC.'  One of the referrals I got was to, who identified themselves on their website as DRS (no explanation of what that acronym means).  In their opening paragraph, they stated:  "Problems with drug addiction can occur to anyone, but with the right treatment and support, the addiction is easily overcome."  Easily overcome?  NO!  Needless to say, I don't recommend you call them. 

I also saw the number for SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (1-800-662-4357).  That may be a good beginning point, but I think our readers deserve better, so I asked the people at Olive Branch Ministry, for whom I have sincere respect and appreciation, for their recommendations.  

They agreed that ICGH ( 828-322-5915), referenced in our Friday article is a good choice.