A Hopeful Look at the Opioid Crisis

By Maegan Kenney

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Right now, an estimated 144 Americans are dying every day from opioid overdoses. In June of this year, Middletown, Ohio, with a population of roughly 50,000 people, lost 51 of its residents to opioid overdose deaths. What if in one month, 51 people in your town disappeared? Imagine how much worse that is for a town the size of Middletown. It would be equivalent to 9/11 happening right outside your door every four and a half years.

Not only is this unbelievable, it’s unacceptable. But what do we do about it? In order to adequately answer this question, we need to understand the nuances of this crisis, which started with the creation of Oxycontin in 1996.

The aggressive over prescribing practices of this drug was one of the worst examples of malpractice our country has ever seen. The second worst example was the discontinuation of Oxycontin without the necessary preparation for the devastation that was predictably about to take place. Now, we have a fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin epidemic that is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people and moving closer to erasing an entire generation. Although Massachusetts is one of the national leaders in taking a firm stance to curb this epidemic, including limiting first time opioid prescriptions to seven days, there is a long road ahead to stop people from dying while simultaneously encouraging long-term recovery and spreading the hope of a thriving life. I am certain we can achieve that dichotomy and I speak from personal experience.

I started using Oxycontin when I was 21, which gradually progressed to heroin and fentanyl addiction. I am now 5 years in recovery with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and am pursuing a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. I share my story in hopes of ending this crisis and showing others that beneath our addiction lives a human being worth knowing. To those who love, and sometimes hate, an addict, please remember that we need your embrace more than we need your rejection. Let us keep trying to figure this out until we get it right. Most importantly, help us not die before we make it there.

I was certain that I was never going to make it out of the depths of my addiction and yet somehow, I found my way. I am certain that you or your loved one can do the same. I am not special. I’m just a girl who lost her way for far too long and somehow woke up in time to make it right. Anyone is capable of leading a thriving life and fulfilling their potential. It starts with a little compassion, lots of self forgiveness and a belief that it’s possible, even if now isn’t your time to make the change. As long as you’re still breathing, hope is never erased.

Maegan is an intern with OPG for her second year field placement as she pursues her PsyD at William and James College.  She is the Founder and Chair of the school’s Opioid Crisis and Advocacy student group and organizes educational opportunities for students

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