Drug addiction can be hard to understand, especially if you have not been personally affected by it. Even if you or someone you know has been involved with drugs in the past, it can still be a difficult process to wrap your head around the pervasive grief and pain it causes. Failing to address this does nothing to help the overarching societal problem we see with drug addiction today. By not expressing our personal experiences with addiction, it becomes harder to move forward, thereby making it more difficult to find solutions that can prevent future lives from being lost to the disease.
For these reasons, it is especially heartwarming to see communities rally together in support of raising awareness about addiction and overdoses. August 31st marked the 14th annual International Overdose Awareness Day, which serves as a time to come together to both remember loved ones who have died or have been severely injured due to overdosing. It is also a time to call people to action about curbing the problem of drug usage in the community, while also highlighting success stories of those who have managed to recover from addiction’s grip. These things must go hand in hand; showing how people can recover and thrive gives credence and resonance to mobilizing people to act.
In Lake Worth, Florida, families gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember those that were lost to drug addiction. Having the chance to reflect publicly on these tragedies was cathartic for many members of the community, and when paired with the message that there is a solution, gives people hope, especially the family and friends of the deceased. This year’s proceedings were particularly exemplary of that message. Reports of the event brought to light the SHARE Foundation, which hands out educational scholarships to five people in recovery. Founded by the parents of a son lost to overdose, projects like these show the good that can come out of a terrible situation.
A local non-profit from Binghamton, New York, Truth Pharm, set out to raise awareness in its own way. An “addiction walk” was held to draw attention to the increasing and ever-concerning rate of drug-related deaths and opioid addiction in the county. Those who joined in were encouraged to carry a picture of the loved one they lost, and chalk outlines were drawn outside the Broome County Office Building to commemorate the loss of life. When the outlines were washed away by a county employee shortly after being drawn, Truth Pharm coordinated another walk just a week after, and plans on marching for weeks to come. It further proves that not only is fighting drug addiction a cause that many people care about, but that it is also one people are committed to advocating for.
More than merely being aware of the issue, it always helps to have real education available to the public about drug addiction. Erie, Pennsylvania recently contributed towards this by hosting a free community forum about its own heroin and opioid epidemic. This event was open to the public, and featured panelists and speakers who are recovering from drug addiction, or are otherwise close to the situation. With more education about the problem, more people can help develop appropriate action plans in surrounding areas.
The issue of drug addiction is not one that will resolve on its own. However, by channeling the pain and grief addiction has caused into meaningful dialogue and education about the problem, we can collectively move towards better solutions. Uniting and mobilizing the community for this cause is hugely necessary, and it is good to know it is happening across the country.