Let's end the stigma.
By Christina Setliff, Owner and CEO of XtinaDC.com
“Provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.” (CDC/National Center for Health Statistics) The rate of overdoses are going up, and the pandemic is not stopping any time soon, so what can we do about this problem? Before I go on, I want to let everyone know why you should care, even if you haven’t been affected by a loved one becoming apart of this statistic.
There’s no denying the stigma around people who use and people with addictions. Many people say, “well they were the one that made the bad decision.” But fail to realize that they, themselves are also human with many flaws. Imagine someone said that about lying, gossiping, eating, stealing, tanning, dependency, shopping, or exercise. The truth is, you can get addicted to any of those things, and not all of them are even considered “bad”, they’re just things you can get addicted to. The human brain is complex, and we fall into habit more often than you’d think. One bad decision should not have you end up in a lifetime of pain, but unfortunately it can. So why is it that we have that stigma? Well one could argue that doing drugs is inherently bad because it can be bad for your mental, emotional and physical health, but we as a society need to recognize and have the emotional intelligence to understand that many people grew up differently and have experienced completely different lives, so sometimes those things wouldn't cross their minds the first time they try something. Maybe they were convinced that their health shouldn't be taken that seriously, or that whatever they're trying wouldn't lead them down a bad path, because once isn't enough. But it can be enough. We need to start having more empathy for people because I promise you, no one goes into it thinking that they’ll endure a lifetime of addiction and pain. These are people who are worthy of getting help and that all starts with empathy and love. This is just one single viewpoint of this all. There are also things like peer pressure (this can come from friends, strangers, family or really anyone), prescriptions (prescriptions can be a gateway to more drugs too), grieving after a loss, stress, adrenaline, boredom, or just plain old curiosity like I talked about.
The war on drugs
Read this article to understand the war on drugs. This is something historical that has affected minorities/POC the most and is continuing to affect them to this day. This is extremely important information so please read.
"Today, Black America is still suffering social effects from the war on drugs. The vast majority of incarcerated Americans, 46%, are in jail for drug crimes. And while about 14% of the nation’s population is Black, Black people make up just over 38% of its prison population, with more dramatic proportions in certain states. One out of every three Black men born in 2001 can expect to go to prison in his lifetime."
"These statistics do not indicate an increased amount of drug use among Black people — instead, it indicates law enforcement’s focus on communities of color and racial disparities in punishments. Communities of color face higher rates of policing and are more likely to retain harsh sentences for drug-related crimes.
The fact that the war on drugs was always meant to target Black Americans is only the beginning. In some ways, racism is ingrained in the war on drug’s policies. For instance, cocaine comes in two forms, and the form that is more common in Black communities incurs much harsher minimum sentencing. Another example is marijuana — it’s the most used substance among Black Americans, and it’s listed as a Schedule 1 drug despite its medicinal use and comparatively fewer side effects than other Schedule 1 substances." (Gateway Foundation, Racism in the War on Drugs, 2022)
RACIAL JUSTICE DONATION LINKS HERE https://www.bayareacouncil.org/about-us/racialjustice/
Why we need to legalize drugs
I know, it sounded crazy to me too. Let’s break this down, then talk about the statistics. If you’ve been around addicts and people who use, you know that they are going to buy and do drugs regardless of the law. If someone is starving, they will find a way to get food. Another good example of this is alcohol, (Which is just as big of a problem). If alcohol were to become illegal, we all know for a fact that people would find a way to drink regardless of the law. We know this because of the prohibition. “While it is true that alcohol consumption dropped significantly in 1921 from about 0.8 gallons to 0.2 gallons, the rate sharply rose in 1922 to 0.8 gallons and continued on an increasing trend through the 1920s. Prohibition failed at lowering alcohol consumption for most of its duration and made the alcohol more potent. This is due to the Iron Law of Prohibition by Richard Cohen which states that the stricter the law enforcement, the more potent a substance become.” (N.C. Cai) Let that sink in for a little. Read that a few times over in your head. The next and more important part that we cannot forget, is regulation. Without regulation, there is no point in the legalization. We don’t want to romanticize or normalize drug use; we want it to be regulated, medically. Some of these drugs, when regulated can also have some benefits. For example, many psychedelics, (but not all) can be helpful in psychological ways. They can also be harmful, and without the legalization of these substances, there won’t be enough research to see who can and who cannot benefit from it. I’ve seen many people with underlying health issues like schizophrenia for example, take psychedelics and unfortunately it did them harm. I’ve also seen people with underlying health issues like PTSD for example, take small amounts of psychedelics and it seemed to help them. Did they take it on their own? No. These small amounts were regulated by professionals. It’s the same with ketamine therapy, in small doses, it can cure depression. The list goes on. But let’s talk about the harmful drugs that have no medical benefits, and why those should also be legalized.
Safe spaces and injection sites
As I said before, the overdose rate has skyrocketed. Fentanyl overdoses have become the number one cause of death among US adults, ages 18-45. That’s right, more than Covid, cancer, suicide, the list goes on. We need safe space for these drugs to be used. Let me say this loud and clear, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE OF GETTING SOBER IF YOU’RE DEAD. Let’s regulate the usage of these drugs, test them, provide therapy, social workers, and a good rehab system. For example, a great start would be giving out clean needles. The number one issue with needles is that they get dirty and overused, causing things like HIV and death. If we were to give out clean needles and someone to look over and regulate the drugs, users will have a chance at living, and hopefully getting sober. Safe spaces aren't the normalization of drugs, they're only for addicts to use safely.
Narcan is used to treat a opioid overdose in an emergency situation. It works by blocking the effects of opioids in your body. It won’t have any side effects on someone who doesn’t need it, so there’s no need to hesitate. It’s 93.5% effective. (Data from emergency medical services Massachusetts) It has no addictive properties and it’s been proven to work. Many like to argue that this also encourages drug use, but statistically, it doesn't. It only saves lives.
As I said before, none of this will encourage drug use or cause anyone to use more than they already do. If you know addicts and people that use, you’ll come to find out every time that they will use regardless of anything else. Testing kits are a great way to know what you’re taking. This is harm reduction; this is important, and this saves lives.
Evidence shows that these sites along with Narcan, testing kits and everything I’ve mentioned have saved lives. There has also been a drop in HIV and Hepatitis C. Between 1998 and 2011 the number of people in drug treatment increased by over 60%. 3/4 of them had received opioid substitution therapy. Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and others have taken these steps, now it’s our turn. Let's take Portugal's doings for example: "Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself. In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country. The official policy of decriminalization made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities. The language began to shift, too. Those who had been referred to sneeringly as Dragados (junkies) – became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as “people who use drugs” or “people with addiction disorders”. This, too, was crucial." (Since it decriminalized all drugs in 2001, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime ,by Susana Ferreira) It’s been proven over and over again to work in these areas as you can see, so let’s take the steps to get where we need to be, and start saving lives and helping people get sober. I know sober addicts and current addicts, and they all deserve our love, empathy and help.
XtinaDC.com cares about our community and wants to help. I've decided to collaborate with a nonprofit "End Overdose". Please take time out of your day to read about the importance of ending the overdose epidemic and what you can do to help. End Overdose is a nonprofit for certified Naloxone training, fentanyl test strips, and in person professional professional trainings. I'm so happy we're collaborating because they've helped so many and continue to raise the bar for harm reduction and awareness. Click on the links below.
I've lost a loved one to an overdose. I wasn't able to help him at the time and wasn't educated on this topic. I look back with regret, but hope that I can do something to help others. Rest in peace KG. I'm doing this for you.