Our country is facing the deadliest addiction crisis in its history. Opioid overuse kills nearly 100 people in the U.S. every day — and Tennessee is ranked third in the country for prescription drug abuse. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50 — beating car crashes, gun accidents and HIV/AIDS. According to STAT, opioids could end nearly half a million U.S. lives over the next decade.
This crisis doesn’t just affect those who struggle with addiction, but also their families, loved ones, friends and communities. Aside from causing brain damage and death, this epidemic is causing an overflow in our hospitals, court systems and streets. It has wrecked lives, threatened regional economic development and brought unexpected challenges across our nation.
We at Centerstone are often asked who is hit hardest by opioid abuse. The sad answer is that we all are. Opioid addiction knows no age, race, gender, socioeconomic or geographic boundaries.
Still, as important as it is to recognize the crisis we are facing, it is equally important to recognize there is hope. In the flurry of news coverage about overdoses, death and addiction statistics, messages of recovery are often lost. Fortunately, recovery is possible. There are people in every state who are overcoming opioid abuse, and there are hundreds of organizations through which help is available.
September is National Recovery Month – a time to celebrate people who have overcome addiction and to encourage those who still actively battling to know they aren’t alone in the fight. Now is the time to sow a message of hope and recovery. We must come together to help those who struggle with addiction find the services and support that they need to succeed.
For the general public, this means not being afraid to address suspected substance use in others. For public officials, it means finding more pathways to help ensure those in need have access to effective treatment options. For those of us in the treatment community, it means seeking more ways to educate and connect with people about addiction and recovery. And for those in recovery, it means sharing your stories to help others break through the darkness that this epidemic has cast on our nation and create hope that recovery can happen.
This Recovery Month, let’s work together to spread the word that addiction recovery happens. Let’s celebrate those in recovery, and offer support, reassurance and solutions to those who are seeking it. Acknowledging a recovering person’s efforts and validating their commitment provides encouragement to continue towards recovery.
Centerstone is committed to providing support to those seeking recovery from substance use issues. To schedule a time to talk with us, please call 888-291-4357 (HELP). For urgent assistance, contact our 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-681-7444.
Ken Stewart is a licensed Senior Psychological Examiner and Regional Vice President at Centerstone (centerstone.org) overseeing the organization’s integrated behavioral health care services in the southern area of Middle Tennessee.