In June, the staff at The Current and The Gazette Newspapers began a series of articles called Current Solutions: Opiate Addiction.
When we started the project, we already knew there was a problem. The drug arrests, overdoses, related crimes and increases in those seeking treatment for addiction have been well-documented in our pages.
Our goal was not to chronicle the growing impact of the opioid and heroin epidemic in South Jersey; rather we attempted to shine a light on ways our community is fighting back against this rising public problem, find what is working, and what shows promise.
We looked at how legislators are responding by trying to implement more restrictions on prescription drugs, to create a registry for patients who do not wish to be prescribed pain killers, and funding recovery programs. State legislators have also been working on the Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education Initiative, or HOPE, which would fund a major public awareness campaign on the dangers of and reactions to addiction.
Sometimes, the path to clean living needs some medical assistance. We talked to a psychiatrist who advocates for the use of naltrexone to streamline the detoxification process based on success he has had with patients who follow this plan.
Organizations like Stop The Heroin are trying to help those who are in recovery overcome financial obstacles associated with securing sober living homes. Schools such as Mainland Regional High School are openly talking about the dangers of these drugs, and the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association is advising coaches and players on how to best manage pain after sports injuries to limit exposure to addictive prescription drugs.
One former athlete told us his story, explaining how the treatment of pain due to injury was exactly how he began his path to a troubling addiction, and how he had to find the strength to pull himself to sobriety.
We spoke to the mother of an addict told us how she had to redirect her career after her daughter’s struggle, but now leads an organization that offers experts who will speak publicly on the topic.
Despite growing hopelessness and despair in many homes around our region, we found that people are fighting back by spending time, energy and resources to help their loved ones and strangers alike.
Through law enforcement, social services, school or parental interventions, dedicated people are determined to be part of the solution.
In presenting this series we have learned that there is not one right answer. Prevention and recovery, public and private, and family resources all have a part to play.
But the big message is that the fight against addiction need not be fought alone. It is our hope that readers have learned that addiction is a disease that touches all people. There are many possible solutions available, and that each of us has a part to play in that solution by first making it OK to talk about it.
This week as we end our series, we look ahead encouraged that some real strides are being made. Our hope is that our series helped those who are doing the work continue to make progress.