Let's end the stigma.
“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)
There’s no denying that there's a stigma around people who use drugs and people with drug addictions. So why is does the stigma exist? One could argue that doing drugs is inherently bad because it can be detrimental for your mental, emotional and/or physical health, but we need to start recognizing and having the emotional intelligence to understand that there are reasons behind why people get into drugs in the first place. There are a variety of factors that play into this. You might have more in common with an addict or someone who uses than you'd think, even if you've "never touched a drug in your entire life". When you eat a piece of chocolate, you're triggering your dopamine levels. Same with when you open a present. What about spending hours on Tik Tok? Drinking coffee? Video games? All of these things give you a spike of dopamine too, so what's the difference between someone eating a piece of chocolate and doing drugs? We're told not to do drugs. It's illegal, addicting, and looked down on. What a lot of people misinterpret about people that use is that they're not using to hurt others or to be a "bad person". People do things out of curiosity. They do things because they feel pressured or maybe they've been through so much pain that drugs are the only thing that they feel like they can cope with. Some grow up in a family where drugs are forced to be taken, or maybe just overly normalized. Some people are over prescribed. And some people feel as if they're under prescribed, so they look for more. Some people just simply want to try it because they want to have a different experience or a different outlook on life, and we shouldn't judge them for any of that. What is the point in stigmatizing drug use? Who does it help? Will it stop people from using? Absolutely not. It will not make any situation better, if anything it could make it worse. Bottom line is, if someone wants drugs, they will find a way to get the drugs. The entire purpose of End Overdose is to make sure they're SAFE while using. Everyone is worthy of being safe, healthy and alive. It all starts with empathy and love.
The war on drugs
"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)
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 or know addicts or 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 to be true 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) This is extremely important to keep in mind. The next and more important part that we cannot forget, is regulation. This regulation cannot come from our Government, as we've already seen what's been happening with big pharma. The FDA is not doing their job properly, therefore we need organizations and non-profits to step in. Thankfully, End Overdose sells Narcan and Fentanyl test strips to help combat the epidemic.
Safe spaces and injection sites
As stated previously, 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, and the list goes on. We need safe space for these drugs to be used. Let’s regulate the usage of these drugs, test them, provide therapy, social workers, and a good rehab system for those who truly want to get clean. 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 which can eventually lead to death. If we were to give out clean supplies, users will have a chance at living, and hopefully getting sober if needed. Everyone deserves to be safe. Remember, you can't get sober if you're dead.
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. You can find Narcan and even learn how to use it in the links provided above.
If you know addicts and people that use, you’ll come to find out every time that they will use regardless of the law. Testing kits are a great way to know what you’re taking. This is harm reduction; this is important, and this saves lives. They're easy to use, just make sure you're using them properly. End Overdose has information on how to use the kits, when to use them and most importantly, these kits are affordable.
Evidence shows that safe spaces along with Narcan and testing kits have saved so many lives. There has also been a drop in HIV and Hepatitis C due to cleaner supplies. Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and others, have taken these steps to legalize, decriminalize and combat the overdose epidemic, and 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.
Thanks to organizations and non-profits like End Overdose, we're heading in a good direction. If you want to learn more, head over to https://endoverdose.net/
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 extremely happy to announce that 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.