Dopesick Author Speaks in Ohio Addiction Not a Moral Failure / Public News Service

With more than a billion in opioid dollars coming to Ohio, advocates argue it must be directed to evidence-based strategies.

Ohio ranked fourth among states in 2020 for drug overdose mortality, with a majority of deaths caused by opioids.

Beth Macy, a journalist, wrote the best-selling book “Dopesick,” which examined the origins of the opioid epidemic. She said real change can happen at the community level with a shift in mindset, with addiction viewed as a treatable medical illness rather than a moral failure and crime.

“In the middle of the worst drug epidemic in the nation’s history, we need to start figuring out where all these bureaucratic, unnecessary hurdles are,” Macy urged. “Only 12% of folks with OUD (opioid use disorder) even managed to get treatment in the last year. As the wealthiest nation in the world, that’s horrendous.”

Ohio will get about $1 billion dollars over 18 years in a major opioid settlement, but additional money is expected from pending lawsuits. Macy speaks Friday at the Prevention Action Alliance’s annual breakfast in Columbus about her upcoming book “Raising Lazarus,” which dives deeper into the issue of opioid addiction and highlights successful treatment practices.

In her research, Macy discovered the opioid treatment landscape lacks coordination and structure, but she noted some communities and organizations are seeing success.

“Even if you have, say, a conservative community that maybe has only viewed addiction through a drug-war lens, even some of those communities are figuring out how to make historical positive change,” Macy pointed out.

Ohio’s new Relapse Reduction Act increases penalties for selling drugs near treatment facilities and to those undergoing treatment. Opponents argued it approaches addiction as a crime. Macy countered harm-reduction practices such as medications to stave off cravings or needle exchange can get people on the path to recovery.

“Once they start to make these incremental changes, they can actually see, ‘Oh, maybe I can get better.’ Macy explained. “But it’s this matter of 40% of folks with opioid use disorder don’t want to even try to get better because they’ve tried before, and they’ve been stigmatized, or they haven’t been able to access it.”

Sometimes it is as simple as needing a ride to a local clinic, or getting help to apply for Medicaid. She added expanding access to treatment medications is needed, as certain practitioners need special certification to prescribe medications to treat opioid use disorder.

Disclosure: The Prevention Action Alliance contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, and Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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