“Stigma killed my son.” That’s what Kerry Strickland told the Opioid Abuse Roundtable that Senator Ron Wyden and Lines for Life CEO, Dwight Holton, convened along with Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Earl Blumenauer last month at Lines for Life.
Jordan Strickland’s story is way too common. Injured in high school sports, Jordan was prescribed opioid painkillers. He became dependent, started using heroin, and struggled with addiction for years. But he had a supportive family, good health insurance – and a mom who had over 20 years of recovery from addiction under her belt, who understood the challenge. After several experiences in treatment, Jordan was clean and sober, and resettled in Southern California. Until one day when he and a friend used heroin , and he died from an overdose last July, at the age of 24.
Kerry explained that the stigma of addiction made is just so hard for Jordan to get help – creating a barrier to treatment that was on top of the structural barriers. If we were to remove the stigma – recognize that substance-use disorder is a chronic brain condition in which the patient will need different types of help at different times along the road to recovery – Jordan might still be with us.
Stigma isn’t just peer pressure – stigma sets real barriers to providing successful health care to people with substance-use disorder. Stigma dictates how we pay for treatment, what treatment you can get, where you can get treatment, whether you can get treatment.
There are 26 million people in long-term recovery from addiction in the U.S., yet every weekend, down at Hooper detox in Portland, they have to turn people looking for help away.
We would never tell a patient with a chronic illness such as diabetes “try to hang in there for a few days till we have room,” but that’s what we do with people with addiction every day in Oregon.
At Lines for Life, ending the stigma around substance-use disorder is a key part of our strategy to end the opioid abuse epidemic, so we can create real access to health care for all Oregonians. And if we can destroy the stigma that currently comes with substance use disorder, we can help get kids like Jordan Strickland the treatment they need to thrive and succeed.…