A Night of Conversation: Talking About Addiction
Thursday night, November 17th, has been designated as A Night of Conversation. This campaign aims to remove the stigma associated with addiction, by promoting nationwide conversations and events to highlight this epidemic.
In August of this year, the U.S. Surgeon General sent out what was called a “historic letter” to 2.3 million healthcare providers nationwide. Dr. Vivek Murthy asked the recipients of the letter to “help to solve an urgent health crisis facing America: the opioid epidemic.” He alluded to the shame associated with addiction and the reluctance of individuals to ask for help. He identified how so many cases of addiction start with a simple prescription for opioid-based medications after surgery, or dispensed to help a patient deal with acute levels of pain associated with a new diagnosis. He shared that many doctors still don’t realize quite how addictive these medications can be.
Since 1999, opioid-related deaths have quadrupled. Dr. Murthy suggested that opioid prescriptions are written so commonly, that the average American has a vial of pills currently in their medicine cabinet. Prescription opioid use is associated with heroin use, and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.
Dr. Murthy directed his call to action specifically to healthcare providers, since they are the ones who ultimately generate the prescription for an opioid medication. He asked these individuals to take a pledge (TurntheTideRX) to build a national movement that would accomplish three things:
- Educate yourself with information in a new pocket guide – CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline
- Commit to screen patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment
- Talk about and treat addiction as a chronic disease, not “as a moral failing.”
The hope is that this pledge and other efforts will intercept the health crisis called addiction. If healthcare providers step up and lead the way, it is the Surgeon General’s belief that we can turn the tide. Medicine and medical care, as he pointed out in the letter, should be rooted in empathy, science and service to humanity. These values need to also be applied to this chronic disease, addiction.
HealthCorps has been a yearly participant in A Night of Conversation, as well. During the past week this year, HealthCorps coordinators have been collecting anonymous post it notes from students, describing how addiction has affected or currently affects their lives. The notes have been posted in the libraries of schools where HealthCorps has a presence. Tomorrow, many of the coordinators have arranged to have short talks with their students, presentations and art exhibits focusing on addiction.
Other sources you can check out include: