Here’s what area professionals want the public to understand about the opioid crisis:
‒ Don’t think it can’t happen to you or your loved ones. Addiction affects all ages, all races, all demographic groups and all income levels. “Opioid addiction is truly a non-discriminatory disease,” said Donna Vitagliano, president and CEO of Insight House in Utica.
‒ Opioid addiction often begins with prescribed medications. About 80 percent of heroin addictions start with prescribed painkillers, said Ambi Daniel, family navigator for the Center for Family Life and Recovery. That’s why monitoring the need for pain pills and disposing of leftover pills in medication return units is so important.
‒ Opioids change the way the brain works and those changes can last for up to 18 months after use stops. But people can and do recover.
‒ People with opioid use disorder do want to get better.
‒ Addiction causes people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. “It is not who they are as a person,” Daniels said.
‒ People often require numerous attempts at treatment before they achieve long-term recovery.
‒ Getting clean is hard. So is staying clean. Recovery is a battle that deserves admiration.
‒ Addiction is an illness, not a weakness and not a moral failing.
‒ “Every person in the community should care about and be aware of this epidemic in order to be able to resolve it as a community,” said Sarah Decker, program director, with the Rescue Mission of Utica’s Addiction Stabilization Center. “This is not a problem that developed overnight and it affects so many people and won’t go away without continuing awareness.”