by Don Holman
Don provides current events updates regarding national policy on the addiction and opiate crisis in the US
On October 7, 2018 I attended the FED UP Rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. FED UP is an advocacy group that focuses on keeping the Pharmaceutical Companies and the FDA accountable for their part in creating the Opioid Crisis and ensuring that they do not continue on the same path. The Rally each year in D.C. is an opportunity for those who have suffered a loss or have a loved one suffering, can attend and listen to speakers or talk to those sharing information on treatment and recovery.
Prior to walking over to Freedom Plaza that day, I had the privilege of introducing Jackie Siegel to Ryan Hampton, who were both in town for different events. Jackie lost her daughter Victoria and Ryan is in long term recovery from Heroin and Opioid Addiction. Ryan was also one of the guest speakers at the FED UP Rally. I suggest researching both Jackie and Ryan to get a better understanding of their stories and their advocacy.
As I walked around the event, I stopped to talk to several people I knew from FED UP, Judy Rummler and then Dr. Andrew Kolodny. While Andrew and I were talking, I happened to notice this young girl walk up to one of the tables and start looking at some of the literature available on Substance Abuse and Addiction. She caught my eye because she was by herself and had a look similar to the one I had the first year I attended the event after losing my son Garrett.
I noticed she was holding one of the flags provided for the rally with a name written on it. I still have my flag from the first year with my son’s name on it. I walked up to her and asked about the name on the flag and as she started talking, I could quickly see the desperation and concern in her eyes.
She explained her brother was struggling with addiction
She was trying to educate herself on what he might be going through and how she could help. We started talking and she seemed to appreciate the conversation and listened to everything I said. Her name was Megan and she was only 19 years old attending college in Washington D.C.
I am sure it is because of my closeness and concern for my own daughter that I am so drawn to young people, especially siblings, who have to deal with not only the brother or sister going through the struggles, but also their parents trying to help them. I even told her there are probably times when she is mad at her brother because she sees the pain her parents are going through and as a 19-year-old, she has her own issues she feels she cannot share for fear of adding additional burden to her parents.
I introduced her to another young lady so they could connect and also introduced both to Ryan Hampton. Sometimes when I attend events or connect with people it is mostly Moms and Dads close to my age and in a similar situation. I think it is so important that anyone of any age, race, religion, or gender, etc. realizes that they are part of the solution to this crisis and in many cases I feel the primary solution.
When I was in the funeral home after my son passed away, we were talking about what needs to happen to allow young people to understand the dangers of high potent drugs that are both legal and illegal as well as Social Pressures and Mental Illness. One of my son’s friends, Kamden, made a statement that I repeat often. He said, “Young people will listen to young people before they will listen to adults that remind them of their parents”.
During the FED UP event, I shared with Megan that I joined twitter after I lost Garrett and all I post and retweet are topics related to the Opioid Crisis. She immediately logged in and followed me and I followed her.
After that day any communication we had were by Direct Message on Twitter and it was basically sharing relative topics or just checking in. Then she sent me a message one day to tell me she had just made a presentation on the racialization of Meth as a “White Trash” drug.
She went on to explain how users are separated from what is seen as “white privilege” in society, and dehumanized. Her message from this is how it has taken away from larger drug epidemics such as the Opioid Crisis. She ended by stating this prompting an interesting discussion in her class.
The Opioid crisis is a complex problem that reminds me of solving a Rubik’s cube
One or two things working does not provide a total solution, but we have to continue to solve while not undermining or changing what might be working. Megan’s presentation touched on a topic I would have never thought about, but it was something she was able to present to her class and start a discussion with her peer group.
This type of discussion is a powerful way to raise awareness and open a young person’s thinking to decisions that may seem harmless in the short term but may have devastating long term effects.
Empowering our youth and encouraging them that their voices matter will help raise awareness in a way that those of us representing their parents cannot achieve. What prompted me to write about Megan was the last message I got from her right before the 2018 Holiday.
Recently Megan sent me this DM on Twitter
Getting this message from Megan made me feel so proud and gives me so much hope for our future. Young people are the key to ending the Opioid Crisis and their voices matter so much. I am positive that Megan has shared information with her peers that has helped them be able to talk about things and even understand dangers they may not know exist.
While no one on Capital Hill may be aware of what one 19-year-old girl is doing to help combat the Opioid Crisis, the people she has talked to and inspired are well aware and even Megan may never know who or how many she has helped avoid the pitfalls of this deadly disease.