Last month, I had the honor of serving as a keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Citizens Heath Initiative Annual Symposium, which was hosted by the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for Health Policy and Practice. During my presentation, I spoke about the pervasiveness of the opioid/heroin epidemic, my reasons for writing Addiction on Trial and special considerations that must be given to adolescents. I concluded my address with a call to action, touching upon approaches and strategies that would help to destigmatize this rampant disease and save countless lives.
As I spoke, Kate Crary, Educational Coordinator at the University of New Hampshire (and an extremely talented illustrator) took graphic notes on the main points of the address. Kate's infographic is a fabulous visual representation of the complexity of the opioid/heroin epidemic, the disease of addiction and the work that I, along with many others, are doing to spread awareness about the problem. Kate’s work is too impressive not to share with you all, and I thought it would be beneficial to frame this blog post around it.
My keynote address was titled The Heroin/Opioid Epidemic: A Call to Arms. Opioid and heroin addiction is a far-reaching, equal opportunity disease that reaches across socioeconomic and geographic boundaries; and this contagion is spreading in a manner unlike any other I have witnessed in my 35 year career in Addiction and Emergency Medicine. The opioid epidemic touches all of us in one way or another, costs society hundreds of billions of dollars each year and will “take a village” and a “thousand points of light” to stop it. We must accelerate our pace of action. Today, the number of yearly opioid-related deaths has surpassed that of gun violence and car accidents. The annual death rate from drug overdoses now exceeds the total number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined; and more than 80% of the drug overdose deaths are related to opioids, including fentanyl, heroin and prescription medications. The time to act is now and we must insist that our local, state and federal politicians and public officials treat this for what it is - a life and death priority.
Although I commend President Trump for finally addressing this issue, using words such as “shameful” or not increasing funding in any meaningful manner misses the mark. It is a Public Health Emergency, but let’s not stop there – it is a National Emergency; drug overdoses are responsible for175 deaths every day! It is not enough to just talk the talk; it is time for our public officials to really walk the walk!
As evidenced by the Surgeon General's warning, we must all take steps to change how the country thinks about the disease of addiction.
To that end, I am donating all my author proceeds from my novel, Addiction on Trial, to addiction treatment centers, homeless shelters and academic endeavors that support the destigmatizing of addiction.
I hope you will consider buying a copy for yourself or to give it as a gift to anyone interested in changing hearts and minds about the disease of addiction.
Please also visit my Facebook page or Twitter account to learn which organizations have been identified as the beneficiaries of this ongoing fundraising campaign.
If you would like to recommend any additional organizations that would benefit from an author-proceeds fundraising campaign, or awareness-building social media posts, please send information to me through my Contact Page.
Below, please read about how Dr. Vivek has taken unprecedented steps by sending an official Surgeon General's warning to all doctors about opioids, which he calls 'the health crisis of our generation'.
I have included below a copy of the personal letter I received. I look forward to assisting the Surgeon General in his mission to destigmatize the disease of addiction! Remember - "It Takes a Village" and "A Thousand Points of Light".
I've spoken and written quite a lot about eradicating the stigma against drug addiction, as well as mitigating the factors that contribute to the growing Heroin / Opiate Epidemic.
I've also worked with many clinicians and doctors, patients and their families, with the goal of developing an understanding of addiction as a disease, not a behavioral failure.
All of this work has culminated in my writing Addiction on Trial, the (well-reviewed!) medical/legal thriller that "sends a powerful message of societal discrimination toward drug addicts and explores common misperceptions about what drug addiction really is—a chronic illness requiring a treatment approach similar to other chronic diseases."
Do you see a theme? It's time to end the stigma and silence around--and the causes of--drug addiction.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be asking questions of my blog, book and social media readers.
I welcome your insights into addiction as you've experienced it! Let's work together to change this paradigm!