In today’s society, most nightly news involves gun laws and politics, but one thing it does not traditionally include is opioid-related deaths. This could be because these deaths are so frequent that the media would be flooded with them. As a child, this problem was unfortunately very prominent in my family, and I struggled with watching my brother fall victim to these horrible drugs. One thing is for sure, nobody deserves to see a member of their family struggle through this fight alone. As a community, we should work to put rehabilitation centers, therapists, and support groups into the Roanoke Valley to combat this war.
In our area, the opioid crisis is at an all-time high. Users can be found in just about every neighborhood from Southeast to Salem. “A Virginia Department of Health report says that opioid-related deaths in Roanoke quadrupled between 2016 and 2017” (1). How did we as a society let this happen? One reason is that it is incredibly easy to become addicted to these medications. An individual could go into the dentist and complain of a toothache and leave with a prescription for pain medication. “70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased significantly by 9.6% from 2016 (19.8 per 100,000) to 2017 (21.7 per 100,000” (2). This crisis has hit so close to home that a member of my own family has been struggling to stay a functioning member of the society for 10 years now. For my brother, Randy Lee, life has never been simple. In the past few months, he has detoxed from opiates, but he has struggled to return to the way his life was before the addiction. After being convicted of more than one felony, Randy Lee has gone from workplace to workplace in search of one who pays enough to pay for his rent, car payment, and court fees, but also will hire a felon. Most jobs that he has taken are bottom of the barrel careers, including working in a turkey plant and barely making enough to scrape by.
So how do we work to combat this epidemic? First, we as a society should implement rehabilitation centers into the community and break the stigma that rehab is embarrassing. Most people would shy away from rehab because of the fear of their image being tainted. In truth, rehab is the foundation to get one’s feet back on solid ground. One of the many positives of a rehabilitation center is the structure that all guests are given. Patients are expected to attend their meetings at the same time every day, thus creating habits such as timeliness and responsibility. Centers also optimize the use of social settings so that patients never feel as if they are alone. The guests are given breaks in between activities to make friends and familiarize themselves with space they are in. Building relationships with the individuals around said patients is a phenomenal way to become a functioning member of society once more. The guests will build social skills, and not be afraid of branching out and meeting new people when they are out of the rehabilitation setting. By becoming more social, patients can hear other stories from like-minded individuals and promote healthy coping mechanisms when they feel alone. In these rehab centers, individuals could also learn basic trades to help further their job search and provide a solid ground to build a career on. Many trades such as electricity, construction, and HVAC are great ways to get a candidates’ foot in the door as long as they are not afraid of hard work.
Second, another positive implementation to combat the drug crisis in the Roanoke Valley would be to promote the use of therapy. Opioid addiction is much more than a physical dependence on drugs. After a user is detoxed from their drug of choice, they are continuously at high risk for relapse. This risk is caused by raised stress levels, social networks such as the friend’s users have made while on drugs, and cues in the environment. If an addict were to drive by a familiar location that reminds them of their previous addiction they can easily fall back into the habit. Therapy would help to escape those cravings by giving an outlet for them to communicate with. Even when they are not in a session, most therapists are available after hours simply because that is the nature of the profession, someone may need you at any hour of the day. Even if the ‘therapist’ is a family member or a significant other, it is still treatment, and non-professional treatment is better than none.
Third, to cure this epidemic in our home, we should implement support groups that are free to attend throughout the week. Simply meeting for an hour at a restaurant and talking with fellow addicts could stop an individual from relapsing back to their old ways. The main reason why users relapse is because they are alone and have nobody to share their struggles and triumphs with. By building strong, healthy relationships with men and women who share the same goals and accomplishments, a person can completely turn around their path to success. Support groups could provide a healthy, positive outlet for the members to discuss how they are feeling and ways that they can fix the burden of loneliness and solidarity. Thus, creating a safe alternative when a person is struggling with falling back into the habit of drug use.
On the other hand, one could argue that these attempts to rehabilitate addicts could be more trouble than it’s worth. For instance, these programs could be expensive to fund, thus causing a rise in taxes. The rehab programs and efforts could ultimately fail, leaving someone responsible to pay for it. Also, most of the fight after detoxing from heroin is completely mental, it may not take long for a user to rid their body of the drug, but their mind is a dangerous place for them. Another argument against the introduction of therapy and rehabilitation centers is that the user did this to themselves. Most addicts begin the use of drugs as their own choice, so therefore why should it be someone else’s problem with helping them beat the addiction? Therapy is expensive, and if a person is fresh out of jail, with a minimum wage job, they will not be able to pay for it.
In conclusion, the Roanoke Valley opioid crisis is at an all-time high, and we as a society need to work together to eliminate this problem that we face in our day-to-day lives. When one considers implementing rehabilitation centers, therapists, and support groups in our society, it is clear that there is a major issue present that the community can solve. This matter shines a light on the imminent future that the city faces, and outrageous drug problem that is too far gone to solve. “The mentality and behavior of drug addicts are wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction, and unless they have structured help, they have no hope”(3). So, with this in mind, we as humans can help rebuild the lives of this once hopeless community in the Roanoke Valley.