First Lady Melania Trump is overseeing one of the most important and life-saving advocacy projects in the country right now: opioid addiction and prevention.
Trump spoke at Liberty University on Wednesday, Nov. 28, about the horrific epidemic that’s quickly been killing Americans across the country, stressing the importance of everyone taking part in helping heal the wounds of despair.
She told the crowd they have “a responsibility to yourself and also to those around you who may be struggling.”
Her remarks followed a unique marker of unity after Democrats and Republicans came together in a moment of bipartisanship recently, almost unanimously supportive of President Trump signing an opioid legislation package valued at $8.5 billion.
The magnitude of the problem is staggering: Tens of thousands of Americans will die in 2018 because they accidentally overdose on opioids, many of them laced without their knowledge. Seventy-two thousand lost their lives in 2017 — that’s more than the number of people who die each year from car crashes or suicides.
Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers reporting a 10 percent increase in deaths in 2017 over the previous year. Put in daily terms, that’s more than 115 deaths per day in the United States.
Much of the package encourages the government to work hand-in-hand with local community efforts to reach citizens where they are and where help is most needed. This is key.
It’s important that the government is taking this crisis seriously, but it will be up to all of us, as individuals, to help prevent and address this epidemic as well.
Part of the goal is to help reduce the stigma surrounding addiction problems, so that more people seek and receive the help they need. This is the right way to address it.
“Addiction is a nonpartisan problem with a bipartisan solution,” said Charmaine Yoest, associate director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President.
Parents need to talk to their children early and often about the dangers of addiction. Research shows that the human brain can take up to 25 years to fully develop, making younger people more prone to develop addictive tendencies.
“We need to build resiliency and life skills and make sure that we are connecting families with the right information, have more parent education in place, as the prevention component it is really critical,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, founder and president of the Addiction Policy Forum (APF).
This battleground is in the hearts and minds of those who are vulnerable. Because addiction is very much a disease of loneliness, the community and faith-based aspect of treatment is the key to permanent recovery.
Relapse rates for substance-use disorders are between 40 percent and 60 percent — many taking place within weeks or months of sobriety. It’s imperative that a community with long-term commitment or concern for someone’s sobriety be involved in the process.
Education must also play a role. Up to 12 percent of those who develop opioid-use disorder get started with a prescription to address a legitimate need. People need to understand that there is an appropriate role for pain relief, but that such drugs must be taken seriously and by following doctor’s protocol.
Education, prevention, treatment and greater individual and community involvement are the real keys to addressing the opioid and addiction crisis facing our country. As the first lady stressed, we all need to be ready to do our part.
Parents can find out more about how to prevent addiction at a new site from APF titled “How do you really keep your kids safe from addiction?” https://www.addictionpolicy.org/preventiontips.