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Responding to the Opioid Epidemic
In the midst of the nation-wide opioid epidemic, on August 31st, members of the Inspire Recovery staff and a few of our clients joined about 130 people gathered with hand-made banners to honor lives lost to the epidemic of prescription overdose. A beautifully choreographed dance was created by the Demetrius Klein Dance Company and See Change Dance to honor those who have been lost to the opioid epidemic. All attendees were invited to participate in the “movement choir” while spoken word poetry was recited to honor the lives lost. Together, we walked from a Memorial Presbyterian Church in downtown West Palm to a green space on the West Palm Beach Waterfront Park to hold a rally, perform the dance piece and listen to advocates in the movement for overdose awareness and an end to the opioid epidemic.
Currently, an estimated 129 people die every day from overdose. International Overdose Awareness Day has occurred annually since 2001 to increase public awareness about the number of lives lost annually to overdose, especially opioids. Although the day of advocacy originates from Australia, it quickly became an international event within the first two years. Across the United States more FED UP! “Goes Local” Rallies were organized in 2016 than any of the previous years. The locals rallies took place in conjunction with the fourth annual FED UP! Rally in Washington, D.C.
FED UP! is a grassroots coalition that is “seeking action from the federal government to bring this public health crisis to an end.” The coalition is a spectrum of families directly affected by the opioid epidemic and overdose deaths of loved ones, as well as medical experts and advocates. In the US, The FED UP! Coalition formed in 2012 and in 2013 they held their first rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to address concerns over an aspect of the Controlled Substance Act that the coalition believes mis-classifies drugs containing hydrocodone as Schedule III drug—instead of Schedule II with drugs such as morphine and opium.
On September 18th, 2016, The Associated Press reported that: “The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.” This is an incredible article, documenting one mother’s fight to prevent the loss of more youth, like her son, whose heroin addiction and eventual overdose clearly began with a hospital prescription to Percocet for a broken collar bone. Stories like these are all too typical in the opioid epidemic.
As the local FED UP! events continued to take place all over the country, Inspire Recovery staff and clients traveled to Ft. Lauderdale on September 2nd to join community advocate groups, including Young People in Recovery (YPR), Steered Straight, the Ian Mauntner Foundation, Learn to Cope, Calvary Chapel Recovery, The Sober World, and Broward County United Way and many others. Speakers took to the mic to share in their experiences and aspirations to see the fight against the opioid epidemic fought and won, bringing an end to the cycle that has effected the lives of 1 in 3 Americans.
On September 18th & 19th FED UP! was busy in Washington producing two advocacy events: The 2016 FED UP! Rally and March to Capitol Hill and a Hill Day educational briefing. The coalition met with their nationwide supporters to “discuss needed next steps in policy and legislation to handle the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose death epidemic.” The program was scheduled to address the failings in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act / CARA act, as well as the need for financial support to continue focus on outreach and education. “We need to ensure our voices are heard and that Congress provides adequate, mandatory funding this year!”
The epidemic of overdose in America can clearly be traced back to it’s roots—the pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctors who have quadrupled their prescriptions to drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl to patients in need of pain relief. Unfortunately, these pain pills are so strong that they unintentionally lead to addiction, crippling addiction or worse, overdose.
As reported earlier in 2016 by The New England Journal of Medicine: “In 2014, a total of 10.3 million persons reported using prescription opioids non-medically (i.e., using medications that were not prescribed for them or were taken only for the experience or feeling that they caused). Emergency department visits involving misuse or abuse of prescription opioids increased 153% between 2004 and 2011, and admissions to substance-abuse treatment programs linked to prescription opioids more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2012. Most troubling, between 2000 and 2014 the rates of death from prescription-opioid overdose nearly quadrupled (from 1.5 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 persons).”
Due, in part, to the great work done by advocates like FED UP!, the FDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are responding in action-oriented ways that help us make progress towards the larger goal. In 2016 they created an Opioids Action Plan and on the day following the FED UP! Rallies on Washington the FDA released information about a new initiative. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, a public contest focused on developing innovative technologies to combat the rising epidemic of opioid overdose.” The FDA has publically given its support for Naloxone and is advocating for greater access to the life-saving drug. Currently Naloxone is a prescription-acquired drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid or heroin overdose. However, to make the drug more accessible by classifying the drug as over-the-counter.
At Inspire Recovery we take pain prescriptions very seriously. We are dedicated to supporting individuals to find relief from an opioid addiction and the root causes for their addiction. With an emphasis on holistic health, the Inspire Recovery curriculum includes a Nutrition group, Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation. These activities increase client awareness of the kinds of practices that can be utilized to minimize pain without prescription drugs. Our care is comprehensive, providing evidenced-based therapies and a creative approach to treatment and long-term recovery. Our clients receive 24-supervision and sober living accommodations that is in walking distance from our facility.
The FED UP! Coalition is working to find ways to:
- Prevent our children, friends, and loved ones from becoming addicted to opioids
- Ensure that people suffering from opioid addiction have access to affordable, evidence-based treatment
- Support and enable recovery
- Eliminate opioid overdose deaths
Without a doubt, it is the hardwork and determination of advocacy groups like FED UP! that we begin to see change take shape in our legislation.