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How 2016 Changed the Way We Talk About Addiction

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In many ways, 2016 was a watershed moment in the national discourse regarding addiction. It was a year that saw overdose rates skyrocket, a year that saw Narcan become a household name, and a year that public officials finally began to take a look at our long-held national drug policies and question their validity.

The year started out as a continuation of what was seen in 2015—high overdose rates and an epidemic proportion opiate problem across many states in the country. It started out as many years had in the past, with drug addicts incarcerated and many more hopelessly addicted and unable to find the help they needed.

For the 15 years prior, addiction was silently sweeping through the United States in the form of pills like Oxycontin, creating a new generation of addicted people. A generation that was addicted younger and faster than ever previously seen and with the turning of the calendar year, it seemed like the trend was bound to continue.

But as the winter turned to spring and the opioid epidemic continued its path of destruction, something occurred that shed light on the problem, and started the process of changing the dialogue around addiction in this country.

In May of last year, rapper Macklemore met with President Obama in order to talk about the opioid crisis that had enveloped many communities. Macklemore, a former opioid addict himself, was able to speak from a place of intimate knowledge on the subject and the two recorded a Public Service Announcement asking us all to view addiction in a different light. They spoke about how this terrible disease is one that can affect any person, regardless of race, religion, or socio-economic upbringing. They talked about the need to change our zero-tolerance policies that have done nothing but create the largest prison industrial complex in the developed world, and move towards education and rehabilitation as a means to help addicted peoples.

This was the first time that an administration took such a stance in the War on Drugs and it was a stark departure from the arrest first, ask questions later attitude that had been employed by the government since the late 1970’s. However, President Obama releasing a PSA asking us all to treat drug addicts like humans was only the first step in the changing tide regarding substance abuse in this country. In and of itself it would have been just an empty gesture, a nice empty gesture albeit, unless followed up by action, and last summer the administration backed the President’s conversation with Macklemore with the passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act or CARA bill for short.

The CARA bill was the first of its kind in that it allowed for medication-assisted rehabilitation programs to be introduced into prisons and it’s verbiage called for a more progressive and understanding legal view of substance abuse. It represented a shift away from punishment as a means of rehabilitation and took into account that substance abuse is an actual medical issue and not just some moral failing on the part of the addicted individual.

addiction and hope

The bill also changed, or rather may change, the way that addiction is viewed within the treatment industry because it’s wording is specifically directed towards medication-assisted rehabilitation and not abstinence-only treatment. It only offers funding for these medication-assisted programs with the clear message being, this is the way we should move forward with treatment in the future. While this is controversial, to say the least, especially within recovery communities, the impact that it will actually have on the treatment industry has yet to be seen.

Last summer also saw a profusion of media coverage regarding synthetic opioids like Fentanyl and their role in the tremendous amount of overdoses that were taking place. While the overdoses themselves were tragic, the media coverage exposed the problem to a wider array of the American public and in doing so, created an environment where real change could occur.

The media coverage showed that substance abuse, in particular, opioid abuse, was occurring everywhere throughout the nation and was not just isolated to poor, disenfranchised communities that are often forgotten about. They showed that this was a problem for all of us and by doing this, they helped to rewrite the public perception of what a drug addict is.

2016 wasn’t done with the issue though and as the year came to a close, the Obama Administration passed one final bill to ensure the legacy of change they hoped to see. The 21st Century Cures Act was passed in December and allocated a billion dollars for education and rehabilitation and safeguarded parts of the Affordable Care Act like the one that makes it illegal for insurance carriers to not offer mental health coverage to their subscribers.

While we still have a long way to go in order to enact real and lasting change in this country in regards to substance abuse, 2016 was a great start. Even if the CARA bill and the 21st Century Cures Act prove to change nothing, at least the public perception surrounding addiction has begun to transform. This is probably the most important thing that could have occurred this past year because for so many years, the stumbling block towards real change was the fact that people detested drug addicts because they did not understand them. They believed them to be something they were not, and to see that they were sick people was asking too much. This is no longer the case, and as 2017 begins, we have cause for celebration because finally,  addiction is being taken seriously.

Finding Treatment That Fits Your Needs

If you are currently suffering from a substance abuse and think that you need to get help for your problem then call the professionals at Elevations Health today, at 1-866-200-3224. We know how difficult it can be to make the decision to finally get clean and sober and our trained staff is here to help in any way that we possibly can. If you are sitting there thinking that you can’t get clean and sober, then you are wrong. A life of recovery is available to everyone and we here at Elevations Health can show you the way. So don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today, and give us a call.

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