By Robin Regensburg
FRAMINGHAM – In 2011, the same year that the Centers for Disease Control and Intervention formally declared an opioid epidemic in the United States, I discovered that my son was addicted to opiates.
“It could happen to anyone,” my closest friend said.
And the truth, I found out years later, is that it did.
Millions of Americans today are addicted to opiates.
But why? How did we get here? How can we heal? Fortunately, there is hope. There are many people and organizations, such as “Framingham Force,” working tirelessly to mitigate this epidemic,
My son was born in the 90’s, during the Information Age. Web browsers suddenly made the Internet accessible to everyone; interest rates were low; the dot-com boom was expanding like a massive feel good helium balloon.
Despite the loss of our manufacturing base, the expectation that each generation would be more successful than their parents, not only persisted, it increased.
The proliferation of cable TV, instant messaging and social media, gave rise to a generation attached more to their screens, than to one another. 24/7 examples of not only celebrities, but ordinary people, achieving Everythingdom in turn, bred anxiety of being left behind, resulting in a search for relief from potential Loserdom.
The dot-com bubble burst in 2000, followed by another crash in 2001, this time of three planes on 9/11, crushing our spirit of invincibility.
In 2006, housing prices fell and by 2008 and 2009, with the arrival of the Great Recession, it was as if Lucy had pulled the football from my son and an entire generation of Charlie Browns, many of whom were left in mid-air, about to land hard on their backs, wondering how or if they’d ever get up.
For them, the convergence of a near economic depression, a feeling of dis-connection via the social web, a work ethic weakened by false expectations of easy wealth, and a growing anxiety that the American Dream was beyond their reach, left them vulnerable.
Purdue Pharma’s benevolent little prescription painkiller, OxyContin, provided a welcome respite from harsh reality.
Approved by the FDA in 1995, “Oxy” was aggressively marketed nationwide.
When you hear about something that will alleviate your suffering, with a doctor’s name attached to it, you want to try it.
A record number of people did. Many, like my son, for whom addiction runs in the family, got hooked.
For those facing what my family and millions of others are struggling to overcome, it’s important to know there is light.
It has been a long and perilous journey, but our family is healing.
We recently celebrated our son’s second anniversary of being sober.
What made the difference for him was time.
Recovery requires connecting with peers; which took nine months to a year.
But gaps in insurance coverage make long-term care inaccessible and unaffordable for most.
The Center on Addiction found that “more than half of U.S. states offered a plan in 2017 that did not comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements to cover substance use disorder benefits.”
Addiction, we learned, does not discriminate, but recovery does.
This must change. Improving coverage for treatment is imperative toward resolving the opioid crisis.
Fortunately, momentum is gaining.
People in recovery, members of their family, and others are joining together to decrease the stigma of addiction. A growing network of organizations that have raised awareness and have created recovery programs and prevention strategies is spreading across the country.
FRAMINGHAM FORCE, an organization whose mission is to combat the opioid epidemic through compassion, education and advocacy is working to create a community free of addiction and its stigma, where all those who need help will seek and receive compassionate care.
Founded by Framingham resident, Cathy Miles, who I met at a Framingham meeting of Learn2Cope, FRAMINGHAM FORCE provides education for families and individuals, offers hope and celebrates those that have overcome this insidious disease.
Policymakers are beginning to approach substance use as a chronic disorder.
Millions in recovery are leading productive lives.
With access to treatment and long-term support, millions more can do the same.
Robin Regensburg, @rregens, is co-founder of raincastle.com. She serves on the Framingham FORCE outreach committee.