The answer to the heroin epidemic is Prevention

Heroin is NOT a problem reserved for drop-outs, junkies, and criminals, it is a human epidemic that does not discriminate.  I saw this first hand with my beautiful cousin, Mickie. She was the brightest, most talented person I have ever known. One year she would be winning medals in gymnastics, the next year, she was figure skating, then horseback riding. It seemed pretty certain that she was going to do big things in her life, and if you tried to tell me otherwise, I would have assumed you were either joking or blind.
Her death in 2007 caused me to question everything about life. She was my inspiration, my muse, and a constant bar-raiser that was impossible to catch up to.

Here she is with her son Brendan just a few months before her passing. Does this match your mental picture of an opiate addict? The answer is an unequivocal No!

Piecing together what led up to this was pretty simple. Sure, she met some “wrong people”, but she had also become addicted to pain killers, the kind that are prescribed to millions every day to control the symptoms of conditions that Western Medicine has yet to come to terms with.

This chain of events, as it turns out, is all-too-common. In fact, the very year she died of a heroin overdose, in 2007, 2.5 million Americans abused prescription drugs for the first time, according to the Foundation for a Drug Free World.

It should be pointed out that millions of Americans also take their course of painkillers for acute situations, like surgery, dental work, and trauma, and simply stop taking them when they are done. But this heroin epidemic we are seeing takes root in people who seek painkillers after their prescription runs out. Doctors know how addicting these drugs are, and that’s why they cut people off. Many times, however, it’s too late. Here’s a sobering info-graphic from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As this truth finally gains critical mass, we see news reports and interviews with experts on the topic. Finally, we are beginning to connect the dots… almost. A piece on NPR the other day caught my attention. It was titled…
With Rise Of Painkiller Abuse, A Closer Look At Heroin

The number of people reporting heroin use in the previous year increased between 2007 and 2012, from 373,000 to 669,000. Meanwhile, federal data from 2011 finds that nearly 80 percent of people who had used heroin in the past year had also previously abused prescription painkillers classified as opioids.

“Opioids — derived from opium — include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone as well as heroin, says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who is the chief medical officer for the national drug treatment network, Phoenix House, and president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. Opioids share a similar molecule, he says, and ‘when they attach to the brain’s opiate receptor, they all cause a very similar effect.’

They give ‘both a positive reinforcement — the effect when you take the drug — but also very strong negative reinforcer, which is that you’ll feel very sick when you don’t have the drug,’ he says. ‘Those two factors together make opioids extremely addictive.'”

The interview continues to propose solutions, such as restricting access to opioid based painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, and drafting legislation to give people legal protection when calling 911 about an overdose. These are good things, but they are only band-aids on the surface of the wound. For those whos dominoes are already falling, this could be a stop-gap. See picture below.

catch dominoes

As I continued to listen, a disturbing fact emerged.

No one has yet addressed the ROOT CAUSE of this issue. STILL!

As far as I’ve heard or read, no “expert” recognizes the underlying cause of all of this… (and here is perhaps the main point of this entry) We are prescribing way too many drugs to control symptoms instead of addressing root causes.

What does addressing root causes really look like? See picture below

dominoes

Don’t let the dominoes fall in the first place!!!!!

Take someone with a damaged gut, or Chronic Inflammation, which is the underlying cause of so many diseases. A short list includes allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, cancer, COPD, Crohn’s, chronic fatigue, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, emphysema, fibromyalgia, heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, lupus, multiple sclerosis, obesity, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more.

Many people who suffer these conditions are not offered a way to healing by traditional “you have this condition, take this pill” paradigm that we’ve become too cozy with. It’s just too complicated and time consuming to sit down and take a full history with a patient, looking into every emotional, dietary and lifestyle variable, and to vigilantly put together a web of factors that all contributed to their current condition for our healthcare model to handle. It’s not the fault of our doctors, as they can only treat as they are taught and learn to.

So, we prescribe painkillers and send them on their way. This is not healing. It is symptom suppression, for sure, and while that is important, it needs to be thought of as a temporary solution while the condition is truly and completely resolved, if possible. Making someone temporarily feel better without treating the underlying cause self-perpetuates dependency. As illogical as this model is, it almost seems as if the pharmaceutical companies prefer it this way, as it is great for the bottom line. I won’t go there, but I hope that everyone recognizes that this is exactly what it looks like.

Now that we are seeing such a spike in painkiller addiction and heroin abuse, it’s time to start making some noise about this. Do you know someone with a condition that “requires” pain killers to manage?  They are at risk. I urge you to help them find answers and get down to the root cause of their issues, and help them wean their way out of the opiate cycle. We’re all victims of this at some time. Sugar, tobacco.. they hit the same receptors as Vicodin and heroin, albeit in much weaker ways. Think I’m crazy? Try telling a child, or some adults, that they’ll never eat sweets again.

It’s basic chemistry. Painkillers are NOT A SOLUTION. They are (sometimes) a temporary reprieve from pain WHILE you also address all dietary, lifestyle, and other causative factors for your condition.

Anyone with a basic understanding of addiction and human psychology could have seen this coming. And now that we know, we can help prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else, hopefully. It all starts with PREVENTION.  Prevent that condition that required the need for pain meds in the first place. If they are already sick, help them find find a healthier lifestyle to help insure they won’t be on pain meds forever.

There is no glory in prevention. No publicized battles, no magnetized colored ribbons for your car, no giant fundraising campaigns, or slogans…. The ever unquantifiable disease that never manifested can never be proven, yet this is the “cure” everyone is looking for.

The #1 weapon against this heroin epidemic is to Preach Prevention!

Take care of yourself, first. Help people take better care of themselves. Get your stress under control and help others do the same. Sleep at least 7 hrs each night, drink plenty of water…   You see?  Not nearly as glorious as a magic pill, but exponentially more effective.

When you see your friends or loved ones start pushing dominoes in their lives, you can teach them what you’ve learned about how to feel your best all of the time, as is intended by nature.

(Side effects may include clarity, positive mood, increased energy, prolonged life, improved quality of life, improved skin complexion, optimal weight, normalized blood pressure, normalized blood sugar, reduced inflammation, rapid resolution of duodenal dysbiosis, increased stamina… etc..etc…

About Chef Brandon

bkaleChef Brandon Schlunt is co-owner of HealthSavor, a Cincinnati Ohio based healthy, organic, gluten-free meal delivery service, created to help busy families, individuals and children eat nutritious meals easily and affordably. Chef Brandon focuses on helping his customers with nutritional support for many chronic conditions and feels very honored to have earned the trust of many doctors, students, parents, athletes, and on-the-go businessmen and women all over the city. In his non-existent spare time, Chef B enjoys music, hanging out with his daughter and fiance, and continuing his education in nutrition.

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