In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. Anyone who has been prescribed opioids for pain management is at risk of developing addiction. Opioid use, even short term, can lead to addiction and overdose.
While talking about substance use disorders and opioid misuse are challenging topics to address, studies have shown that not only keeping an open line of communication but also how we are addressing these topics can reduce stigmatized barriers for individuals and their families. Removing the stigma behind addiction creates a safe and supportive environment allowing access to necessary care and support.
This is known as “person-first language” – where a person is put before their diagnosis, talking about what they “have” rather than what they “are” in a nonjudgmental way – and it’s a simple but effective key to a healthy discussion on opioid misuse.
Keep things personal: Discuss how opioid misuse impacts both the person and you as someone who loves them.
The mounting opioid crisis threatens our friends, families and communities. Moving forward, we can recognize and stand up to the challenge. We can seek opportunities to reduce the stigma felt by those burdened with addiction. We can educate and mobilize for the sake of our neighbors in need—strengthening congregational care.
People suffering from addiction need to know they are not alone—that there is someone who cares, someone who will connect them to the resources they need to gain recovery. Taking the time to educate and empower yourself and others in the fight against opioid addiction is a critical first-line defense to ending the impact of opioid abuse for all.
No family is immune to the effects of drugs. Parents who stay updated on the latest trends or are educated on the effects of opioid misuse, can pass along that learned knowledge to their children. Learned information can clear up any potential misconceptions that may be shared in social circles. As a natural role-model to children, personal views on alcohol, tobacco and drugs can strongly influence how children think.
In addition to having open and candid conversations with children about opioid misuse, make sure to keep prescription medications out of reach and dispose of medications safely. Visit https://standupms.org/prevention/talk-to-children/ to download our toolkit or to learn more on how to talk to children.
If you know someone who may have an opioid use disorder, the thought of approaching them about it has likely been considered. Reaching out to someone with an opioid addiction can feel difficult even for people who have professional training but starting this conversation could save the person’s life.
If a coworker gets hurt on the job, their doctor may prescribe opioids to help reduce pain. These powerful drugs could potentially lead to opioid misuse or addiction even if only used for a short period of time.
Learn the early warning signs of opioid misuse and addiction. Failure to follow through with commitments, missed deadlines, changes in hygiene, easily distracted behavior, and decreases in attendance are all signs of misuse. It’s important to remember that seeing signs doesn’t guarantee opioid misuse, but if there is a change in their performance, it can provide an opportunity to reach out to them privately.
To learn more on how to promote recovery in the workplace, visit our Opioid Workplace Awareness Initiative Toolkit at www.owai.standupms.org. This toolkit was developed to provide practical tools employers can use to create a healthy, supportive work environment for Mississippians who may be at greater risk for opioid dependence and addiction.
A faith-based community is a place where love and support can be felt the most. However, caring is simply not enough. Education and guidance can be helpful resources for the friends and family on the front lines of a loved one’s addiction. Every congregation has likely had members affected in some way by the opioid crisis, and many faith leaders are unaware of just how close to home the epidemic is.
Faith-based organizations have a unique opportunity to come alongside those suffering, especially their own members, at three critical stages—prevention, intervention, and recovery. However, most faith leaders hesitate to speak openly about the opioid crisis and share facts about the dangers. Talking openly can help eliminate the stigma around seeking help for addiction.