It Takes a Villain
Definitions of villain generally contain the word evil. Evil is called malicious, causing misfortune, and harm. Villainy is the state of being evil. In religion, ethics, philosophy, and psychology "good and evil" constitute a very common dichotomy. Evil is usually considered to be the opposite of good, in which good should prevail and evil should be defeated. Over the years the war on drugs has evidenced this common dichotomy. There are good drugs and bad drugs. There is danger in taking drugs that are used just to feel good or not feel at all. How the drugs are used is what can make them bad. Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo once said., “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
We are now facing an opioid epidemic. The misuse and abuse of a beneficial drug has created a national crisis. Through ignorance and/or subterfuge we ignored known brain science that told us of the possibility—if not probability—of the addictive nature of opiates. In1996, Purdue introduced OxyContin, time released oxycodone, for chronic pain patients—marketed as non-addictive. The rest is history and history is still being tragically made. Sam Quinones is the author of Dreamland—The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. In the book, He chronicles the history of prescription drugs and destroyed communities that brought us to this crisis. Quinones recently testified to the Senate Health, Education Labor, and Pensions Committee. He emphasized that solutions lay within communities and counties. He spoke of opportunities to deal with those incarcerated as an opportunity treat addicts. Most importantly, he spoke of recruiting persons and families to share of the power of their stories to overcome the stigma associated with addiction. His testimony will be vital in dealing with all the elements and possible solutions to the opiate epidemic.
We know that as prescription pills became harder to get and more expensive, black tar heroin from Mexico is readily available. Now illicit drugs and synthetics like Fentanyl are linked to more overdoses than any other drug, including painkillers. Ironically, the availability of a “good” drug, Nalaxone HCI (NARCAN), can prevent overdose deaths. There are professionals with knowledge of the science of addiction who can prescribe appropriate drugs. Methadone, buprenorphine, naloxone, and naltrexone can all be effective in treating opioid addiction. Medications are often an important part of treatment, more so when combined with behavioral therapies. All lead to the essential ability to think clearly and responsibly. Recovery from addiction leads to physical and mental well-being and alternatives to prolonged medicinal drug use.
Crisis presents an opportunity. It has been written that it takes a village to raise a child. For our children and all of us, all the nation’s villages must face and overcome the crisis of the evil that is drug misuse and addiction. In the Betty Ford Children’s Program, illustrated books for children portray, in cartoon style, addiction as a villainous character that destroys families. We must defeat the villains who provide drugs and the villainy that results in death. Armies have been raised to fight real or perceived evil. We gather by the thousands to march against whom and what we perceive as evil. We identify or invent villains. From these marches may emerge a movement. It should be noted: A march does not a movement make. Marches provide dynamics, but movements provide policies and purpose. Our organization, Faces and Voices of Recovery, represents a movement involving millions in long-term recovery. Perseverance and sustainability have been and are critical to individuals and to our well-established movement.
The recent Congressional budget agreement will increase funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion and raise spending meant to address the opioid and mental health crisis by $6 billion over the next two years. We should know what other evil drugs are being developed by other lab villains.
Our “villages” are populated with persons with knowledge about effective use of funds, at the local level. Funds—not trickled down, but long and dependable flow down— with fiscal oversight and with few ties that bind. Our Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) can have an important administrative voice in the decision-making process. The plan includes public prevention programs, and law enforcement activities related to Substance use disorder SUD under mental health programs. Critical to sustainability will be the need the long-term benefit of the shared lived experience of peers in recovery and recovery support services. The economic and social value is immeasurable. We can defeat the villainy of drug addiction but movements need motivation and motion. So—let’s roll. ——Merlyn Karst