It has been all over the news recently: our country’s opiate epidemic. In October the White House declared it a public health emergency, but the crisis has been brewing for years. Since 1999, the number of opiate overdose deaths, which includes prescription opiates and heroin, have quadrupled, according to the Center for Disease Control. Today, nearly 100 Americans die every day from an opiate overdose.
The epidemic is especially severe in rural areas and among Native Americans and whites. Deaths from opiate overdose in rural areas rose by 325 percent since 2000, and by more than 500 percent among Native Americans and native Alaskans. Native Americans fare the worst of all people of color, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that American Indian students’ annual heroin and OxyContin use was about two to three times higher than the national averages.
The problem exists in the Pokagon community as well.
“It’s just not on TV, or in the neighboring county or state. It’s actually here in our backyards,” said Daun Bieda, Behavioral Health supervisor at Pokagon Health Services. “It’s real. I see it every day here. We have a lot of opiate abuse; we have a lot of heroin abuse. We’ve dealt with it. We continue to deal with it. And we won’t go away.”
Keep in mind that the opiate crisis is more than a heroine problem. Overdoses from prescription opiates are a driving factor in the 15 year increase in opiate overdose deaths. The amount of prescription opiates sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported. So addictions after taking opiates for pain management make up a large part of the soaring numbers.
You’ll be hearing and seeing more about this in the months to come. PHS has partnered with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create an opiate awareness campaign for the Pokagon community: Clean Body, Clean Spirit.
“We’re trying to make the community aware of this, so it can be heard and it becomes our problem, instead of their problem,” said Bieda. “It’s estimated that five Native babies are born addicted to opiates each month. These are astounding numbers. This is why it’s so important is to get the word out. If you have a family member that’s suffering from addiction—or you are suffering from addiction—there’s help. We have help.”
Bieda stresses that PHS strives to heal the whole person, the family and the community.
“It’s a community illness, it’s a community treatment.”
Look for personal stories of hope and recovery, videos, podcasts, posters and social media messages about Clean Body, Clean Spirit in 2018.