3 Things You Can Do Today to Help Combat America’s Opioid Crisis
We all have the power to try and help change someone’s story.
Last year, we lost more than 70,000 people to overdose deaths in the United States. That’s more than car accidents, more than HIV/AIDS, and more than gun deaths.
Substance use disorders don’t discriminate. This is a widespread issue impacting communities across the country. No one solution can resolve the crisis and no single organization can fix it, but together we can make a big difference. That’s why the Clinton Foundation is working with partners around the country such as faith leaders, schools, public health experts, and advocates like Julie Stampler.
Julie Stampler, a harm reductionist, knows this firsthand. Substance use disorders have affected her life in numerous ways. Julie is the stepdaughter of Jack Fishman, who developed naloxone, the medication that reverses the physical effects of an opioid overdose and is used most often.
Tragically, Julie’s brother, Jonathan, died of a heroin overdose fifteen years ago. “Naloxone wasn’t accessible to my brother when he was using drugs,” Julie explains. “So, unfortunately, when they dropped him on the hospital steps, it was too late.”
As a harm reductionist, Julie now works to support communities affected by substance use disorder. She recently sat down with our staff to discuss her work and ways to combat the opioid crisis in the United States.
Keep reading to learn how you can help save more lives.
1. Carry naloxone.
One symptom of an opioid overdose is a person’s breathing becoming shallow or even stopping. When that occurs, every second counts.
Preventing a deadly overdose can be as easy as carrying NARCAN, the intranasal version of naloxone that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and restores breathing. The spray is simple enough for people with no medical training to administer.
The Clinton Foundation works to get this critical, lifesaving treatment in as many hands as possible through groundbreaking partnerships with companies like Adapt Pharma, which has made NARCAN available to high schools, colleges, and universities at no cost.
In many states, you can receive naloxone from a pharmacy without a prescription. Additionally, many regional prevention groups and community health departments provide free doses.
So why should you choose to carry naloxone? As Julie says, “We have the power to change someone’s story. Maybe it’s not for a loved one – maybe it’s for your neighbor down the hall. Chances are, at some point, you’re going to know someone whose misusing prescription opioids. You may save a life.”
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which reverses the effects of an opioid. You can learn more about administering naloxone here.
2. Change how you talk about the issue.
One of the biggest obstacles for people with substance use disorders is stigma. This often prevents them from actively seeking the help they need and it can prevent communities from making it a priority to take action and fight the opioid epidemic. To reduce the stigma of addiction the Clinton Foundation is engaging faith leaders around the country to confront the opioid epidemic in their communities. Faith leaders are trusted sources of support and information, and can influence attitudes and practices. The Foundation equips them with the tools and training they need to organize community members and address substance use disorders.
Julie says of her brother, Jonathan: “For so many years, my brother was a junkie, right? No, he was my brother. I lost so many years because I was told that’s what I was supposed to call him. Because somehow, that was going to help him stop using drugs.”
We can all help by changing the way we talk about this crisis. “Drug users need love and compassion, just like the person who’s suffering from cancer or diabetes.”
3. Get certified/trained in Mental Health First Aid.
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.
Learn more about the training program and find out how to enroll in a course close to you.
The Clinton Foundation works with a diverse range of partners to fight the opioid crisis by increasing access to lifesaving medication and growing the body of research and evidence for preventing overdoses and treating victims. From schools to community faith leaders, we are working with partners to create trusted communities of support working to take action on this public health crisis. Your support means we can continue to combat the opioid epidemic. Help us save lives.
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