Guest Op-Ed: Fighting the prescription drug epidemic

Throughout the years, I have seen many different drug trends, but have never seen an issue move so fast in our own backyard, until the current prescription drug epidemic.

It starts off so innocently — a football injury, a car accident, even a tooth extraction. You have pain and the doctor prescribes pain medication, with instructions on how to take it. Most people, however, have no idea how addictive these drugs can be.

For some, even after taking it just once, you realize it does more than simply relieve the physical pain. It makes you feel good all around. So you take more, for comfort, both physical and mental, and your tolerance grows, so you take an extra. Before you know it, you’re addicted, and you don’t even know it.

Eventually, your prescription runs out. You start to sweat, get the chills. You can’t sleep, and your body aches. You’re in withdrawal, and all you can think about is those little pills.

You go back to the doctor to get more, but the doctor says no. So now you talk to a friend, who has a friend, who can buy these pills on the street. The street, however, does not accept insurance. Now, you’re buying these pills on the street for $20, $30, $40 a pill. Then someone says, “Try this — it is $8 a bag and works just as well.”  Congratulations. You have been introduced to heroin. Your journey does not stop there however. One bag turns to 10 bags a day very quickly.

As many of you are saying “not my son,” “not my daughter,” “not my father,” the reality is, it is your family, friend or neighbor. I can write all day about statistics, but that just doesn’t matter. Until it hits your friend or family, you won’t get the severity of the disease of addiction. Whether you believe it is a disease is really neither here nor there.

I have walked along Fifth Avenue from 69th Street, and watched heroin and pills being sold right on the street. Our people are dying, people of all ages and from all backgrounds.  Nine young people alone died in Bay Ridge from opiate overdose.

The parents I talked to told the same story. One in particular resonates in my head. He had a football injury, got addicted to oxycodone, and tried to get help. He couldn’t get it in time. He died of an overdose in a local emergency room. He was 22, from a good working family. The mother did all she could do help him, but between insurance problems and the stigma of addiction, it was a no-win situation.

You may be asking, “What are we supposed to do? Why don’t they stop? Why don’t we arrest the dealers?” I wish I had the answers, but what I can tell you is this:  We at The Resource Counseling Center are here to help with treatment on demand, now, when you need it. If you don’t have insurance, we will still help you.

We need support to be able to continue to do so. As we are a 501c3, we need donations and funding which we are trying to obtain. We have been in Sunset Park providing substance abuse education for 20 years, and treatment for the last three.  When Bay Ridge community leaders asked for our help, with no treatment centers serving their community, we quickly answered the call and opened TRCC of Bay Ridge.

Funding that was pledged to us unfortunately fell through, so now we are in a quandary.  We ask the community’s support, so we can continue to help our neighbors, families, and friends.

Donna Mae DePola is founder and CEO of The Resource Training & Counseling Center, a not for profit organization providing substance abuse education and treatment since 1994. She has worked in the field of addiction for over 25 years. 

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