“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
Prescription painkillers (including, and especially methadone) are clearly being pushed out into our communities by entities knowingly making a profit by actively encouraging and facilitating abuse of these uniquely dangerous substances. And simply put, these profit-driven activities and the real people behind them are quietly killing our friends, neighbors, coworkers, sisters, brothers, parents and children at a rate this nation has never before seen.
They killed my teenage son, Henry two years ago.
The individuals running various pill-pushing businesses – ranging from many mom and pop “pain management clinics” to some multinational pharma corporations are intentionally working every day to “grow the market” for their product. The pool of consumers with legitimate, major, medical pain relief needs is necessarily slow-growing, if not ultimately finite. However, the pool of potential opiate abusers and addicts is vast and expandable.
And, it seems, expendable.
Fighting this epidemic requires active and contemporaneous efforts on two discrete fronts. We must make high quality addiction education and treatment readily available to every American who needs it. But we must also do what it really takes to shut down the profit-motivated pill pushers, from the corporate boardrooms to the streetcorners.
In memory of my son, our family launched Henry’s Fund, a non-profit that provides funding for high quality treatment for young drug addicts. Since Henry’s death on May 31, 2010, Henry’s Fund has raised and distributed nearly $30,000 to our first partnering addiction treatment programs. In 2013, those of us who volunteer our time and dollars to Henry’s Fund hope to take our fledgling non-profit’s work to the next level, with plans to help many, many more kids like Henry to get the help they need, when they need it.
Also in 2013, I, along with other parents who have lost their children and other loved ones to prescription drug addiction and overdose will be launching an entirely new and passionate advocacy effort to directly and strategically address the second part of what it will really take to end this epidemic. The time has come, and we are ready to do this work, together, just as the bereaved parents who pioneered anti-drunk driving efforts a generation ago decided that the time had come, and that enough was enough.
I hope that the local “pain clinics,” as well as the larger corporate entities making enormous profits by intentionally pumping an ever-growing flood of these uniquely risky medical products into our communities are ready to hear from those of us who are now ready to organize, to stand up for our dead children and say, “enough,” because 2013 is the year when that’s going to happen.
The time has come when parents of overdose victims will no longer be silenced and encouraged to hide our children’s overdose deaths in shame. The pill profiteers count on our shame and silence to prevent us from finding one another, and more importantly, from organizing for change. But starting this year, those who have depended on our individual and collective silence to shield their unethical and illegal actions will no longer be able to use victimized families in this way.
Additionally, we will be letting law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and prosecutors know that we expect them to begin fully investigating overdose deaths within their jurisdictions as the potential drug-induced homicides that both federal law and most states’ criminal statutes unequivocally define drug distribution resulting in death to be. We are no longer willing to be told that these criminal statutes don’t exist or that they are unemployable, and we are no longer willing to allow these public servants to treat overdose deaths as private, shameful family matters, when in fact, overdose deaths by the numbers now represent the most urgent public safety issue facing our criminal justice system.
As I share more information about this new advocacy movement in the coming months, I hope that many of you reading this will choose to join us in the fight to put this fire out before it ravages this nation any further. Let’s make 2013 the year that marks the beginning of the end for the prescription pill overdose epidemic. Together, we can do this.
And we will.
Please do what you can to help share this important “opening salvo” with others in your own neighborhoods and communities.
Additional Info: Center for Disease Control Reveals That 20% of All Prescribers Write the Prescriptions for 80% of All Rx Opiates in U.S.