Words matter. They determine how we understand and perceive our world. They carry power, for good and for ill. Stigma is driven by the pejorative words, the labels, that are used to describe us. This is not a matter of political correctness. Until we are seen as people, until we are provided the same respect and dignity as everyone else, we will continue to die. We have to change the cultural perception of those with an opioid disorder. To do that we have to first change the language of opioid addiction:
Harris Lee Wittels died on February 19, 2015 of a heroin overdose alone in his Los Angeles home. He was 30 years young.
He was my son. He was the world’s comedian. My son grew up in an affluent, white suburban neighborhood. He was a “nice Jewish boy.” His dad is a physician and I am a retired teacher. My son would never, ever take that drug called heroin! These kinds of kids don’t do such a thing! I am sharing this story because I want other families to hopefully know what we did not know.
This is an important film by the Chicago Recovery Alliance and Greg Scott. Everyone should watch this film. And carry naloxone. Thank you, Kim Brown, and Ted and Marilee Odendahl.
This epidemic of opioid addiction and death that we are living in is not the result of the use of opioids per se, but by society’s response to this use. What the “War on Drugs” has accomplished has been to turn what is a chronic but treatable, manageable, disease into an epidemic of addiction and death.
We are in the midst of an epidemic of opioid addiction and death. Almost everyone knows someone living an opioid addiction or who has died from one. And they all have the same question: why can’t we, didn’t we, stop?