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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Raising Consciousness By Facing the Reality of Drug Addiction

In virtually all spiritual and philosophical traditions of the world, the basic message is that only by becoming more aware, more conscious of yourself and your surroundings, will you evolve as a person. Without a high level of consciousness in this complex world, you could not achieve significant enlightenment -- you would not be able to purposely react to real life and expand as a person

Evading reality or hiding from it can lead to a diminished sense of self-efficacy (confidence in your ability to do things) and a loss of self respect. As you actively avoid real conditions, you sacrifice applying reality to your life. Do this too much, and you begin to live detached in a fog of denial that distorts judgment and reaction.

Someone once said, "Denial is like covering your eyes and walking straight across a busy highway." Although denial is sometimes intentional because often it's easier to think a certain way about things than to face the reality of them, frequent denial eventually causes you significant anxiety and fear. You may even become acutely afraid of change and stagnant in a fear of the unknown.

For the longest time, I was unaware of the extent of the drug abuse problem that existed in Scioto County. Even as a teacher for decades in a local high school, I believed the occasional drug matters we faced were isolated, fairly insignificant occurrences. Though I didn't hide from these problems, I was busy attending to all of the duties of teaching without pushing myself to learn more about the reality of the situation. Little did I realize that busy, focused people often overlook things in "their own backyard."

A while after I stopped teaching, around the end of 2009, I started hearing about the prescription pill epidemic that gripped our county. I, quite frankly, was in disbelief about the severity of the abuse. But, after attending just one astounding meeting of the Scioto Rx Drug Task Force, my eyes and ears fell squarely upon a reality that I then realized I had largely neglected for almost a decade.

I understood then there was no time to waste as my home had become a haven of addiction and a killing field of drug overdoses.

I first became an activist in the cause to stop prescription drug abuse by beginning the Facebook group "Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse, Misuse, and Overdose." Of course, soon our Facebook group became extremely active in the war against opioid drugs.

This is from the December 2, 2011 blog entry titled "Appalachian Abuse Fighters" just a year or two into the wonderful community outreach that helped end the era of the pill mills in Scioto:

"The fight has definitely been 'long' and 'hard' taking members of the Scioto Rx Drug Task Force and its Action Team into numerous protests on the street; prayerful vigils; formations of support groups and Facebook groups; meetings with local, state, and federal officials and agencies; trips to the Ohio Statehouse and hearings with legislators; media coverage from local, state, and national levels; sessions in courtrooms statewide; meetings and workshops at schools, colleges, and counseling centers: on and on.

"We have met with the Federal Drug Czar, Governors, Senators, State Representatives, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, DEA and law enforcement heads, clinical professors from universities, representatives from pharmaceutical companies, officers of the Appalachian Regional Commission, religious leaders, national talk show hosts, popular entertainers, counselors, and, of course, youth of all ages."

That same blog post chronicled the effectiveness of the all-out fight against prescription drug problems ...

"There are 1 million fewer prescription pills on the streets in 2011 as compared to 2010,
according to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

"The decrease in pills comes in Scioto and Gallia counties, ranked among the worst in the state
for prescription drug abuse. Residents in other counties wonder if the state can also decrease the problem in their county.

"Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS)  credits the decrease to several factors, including actions taken by Ohio's Drug Abuse Task force and crackdowns on pill mills."

(Nadia Bashir. "Winning War on Prescription Drug Abuse, State Says." October 31 2011.)

I will spare you more details about the Drug Action Team to come back to my point of the importance of becoming aware of your environment.

So much stigma and misinformation continue to keep many residents from facing a lingering drug epidemic. We must continue to strengthen our efforts to defeat drug abuse. The health of our community depends upon raising consciousness to proven strategies that help end the tragic consequences of dependency and addiction.

Our county presently faces a horrible heroin problem that stems largely from the successful fight against prescription opioids. Prescription drug addicts, still craving opiates, now choose to use this illegal opiate, and the resulting destruction blights our local communities.

We face obligations to push new initiatives and to commit to changes that will improve this bleak reality. Much work to make essential improvements has already been done by many wonderful people and dedicated organizations. Still, health officials strive for a goal of complete public awareness to fight a total war against drug abuse -- a war waged on many fronts.

Of course, the most horrifying outcome of drug addiction is overdose. Today, in 2015, Scioto County still holds the highest accidental fatal overdose rate in the state -- at more than double the state average. As part of the campaign to change this tragic toll, the AoD Committee of the Scioto County Drug Action Team will hold an International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) event in collaboration with the Fastop Market (on 8th. St. beside Mitchellace) on Monday, August 31 from 10AM-3PM.

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31st each year which aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. Overdose Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. In doing so, it is a meaningful day of rethinking.

At the awareness event, the Portsmouth City Health Dept. will be distributing naloxone kits, and all treatment providers and applicable social agencies are invited to set up a booth adjacent the store to target citizens who would like to learn more about prevention and treatment and other available services.

By attending the Scioto County International Awareness Day Event, you can physically and mentally acknowledge a reality you might otherwise purposely deny. The location for this event has not been chosen randomly or by happenstance. The Fastop Grocery Store at 1735 8th Street has been an oasis of care and concern for those in the East End for many years. The owners are local residents who proudly serve their community. We thank them for their kind cooperation.

“Some, they didn't make it.
The temptation just too strong.
How can darkness cloud the mind
To what I know as wrong?”

― Kimberly Nalen, Beautiful Junkie: Poems about Addiction and Recovery  

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