Every Tuesday in The News-Gazette, we’ll turn over our Commentary page to community members and other experts with local ties. If you have interest in weighing in on a topic making news, contact Editor Jeff D'Alessio at 217-393-8249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been almost three years since we lost our son Robb, at the young age of 36, to an opioid overdose. Robb was truly a loving and caring son who unfortunately battled addiction for decades. He was also a successful lawyer and proud graduate of Marquette University Law School.
Since Robb’s death, we’ve made it our mission to help others stay away from drugs and addiction. We share Robb’s story not only as a means of keeping his memory alive, but because it helps us combat prevailing addiction stigmas that prevent so many from coming forward to seek help and support.
This message is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the current period of uncertainty is challenging for those battling substance abuse disorders.
Face-to-face counseling sessions and support groups are no longer taking place. Web meetings have sprung up to fill the void, but virtual sessions don’t foster that same desired level of community and connection.
Some clinics have closed. Those that remain open have been forced to dramatically alter their procedures and tactics, not to mention reductions in staffing/volunteers and equipment.
Couple these changes with the isolating nature of the social distancing measures meant to keep us safe, and many are turning to risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drugs, as a means of coping.
We’re concerned that this will only deepen the opioid epidemic and lead to more frequent relapses and overdoses.
To help stem the tide, it’s important to ensure those who may be struggling have an active social network and support system. Isolation and loneliness are two of the more common relapse triggers. Even the simple act of checking in regularly and making yourself available to talk can make a huge difference.
Additionally, we need to ensure widespread access to the opioid reversal drug naloxone. Before the pandemic arrived, several states had already issued naloxone co-prescription directives as a means of more effectively getting naloxone into the hands of the people who need it.
Currently, organizations across the country are doing the best they can to continue making naloxone available under less-than-ideal circumstances. This includes proactively mailing and delivering naloxone, as well as virtual training sessions that demonstrate how to properly administer it.
These efforts are essential to helping those who may be vulnerable to an overdose.
While there are certainly no perfect solutions, we must continue to support, inspire and offer hope to anyone struggling with substance abuse through this difficult and trying period.