The opioid addiction crisis has not yet hit epidemic levels in the Houston-Harris County region. But the trends are quite alarming: in Harris County alone, deaths associated with opioid overdoses have increased 135% since 2013, with a significant spike since 2016. Approximately 77% of drug overdose deaths in Harris County were Houston residents.
Many individuals and organizations across town are doing their part to bring awareness to the issue. For example, recently HCA Houston announced their “Crush the Crisis” initiative educating residents how easy it is to dispose of the dangerous, over-prescribed medications anonymously. Initiatives like this raise awareness and help our community face the opioid addiction problem head-on.
But what else can we do can we work together to end the stigma around opioid addiction?
It starts with convening our elected officials, regulators, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare providers, law enforcement, the education system, addiction experts and researchers to develop a national strategy. Such a strategy will not be designed to change hearts and minds but to help address structural changes and, more importantly, make addiction part of the national conversation.
Having open, honest, transparent and sincere conversations is one of the most powerful ways to change the stigma that surrounds addiction. These conversations – along with initiatives like “Crush the Crisis” – will create opportunities for more people to seek quality treatment and create hope for those who need it the most.