Dopesick Author Speaks in Ohio Addiction Not a Moral Failure

Written By: Mary Schuermann Kuhlman
Published on: Tuesday, August 23, 2022
The original article can be found here.

With more than a billion in opioid settlement dollars coming to Ohio, advocates argued 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 historically has only viewed addiction through a drug-war lens, even some of those communities are figuring out how to make 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 argue 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.

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