Things We Don't Talk About # 183
Warning: If you're easily offended, stop reading now
If you live in southwest or central Virginia, it's highly likely that someone in your life - maybe one of your children or grandchildren - is using meth or heroin - maybe even shooting it up. That's just the hard truth. And it's a hard thing to talk about.
Probably, if you're like most mothers and grandmothers, you'd like to keep it a secret. Maybe you'd rather not even know. Ignorance is bliss and all that.
It's a hard thing if it's your kid. Maybe you've been dealing with it for 20 years and you don't know what to do or who to talk to. Back in the day, when you were coming into adulthood, the word junkie didn't even exist. You're not equipped to deal with this. Don't apologize. How could you be? And who is equipped to deal with this?
This is not your grandmothers's needle - or is it?
A Column About Various Unmentionables
by Tanya dalton
What's happening right now with IV drug use is that there is a bloom of them. They're everywhere, you don't know who they are or where they are. They might be grandchildren stealing your prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet, and you don't want to blame them in case you're wrong about who it is. It might be your housekeeper who saw your debit card on the counter and used the card number to get online and wire herself a moneygram courtesy of your bank account. It might be that delicious man who has you swooning but isn't planning on telling you he's got AIDS or Hep C. Maybe he doesn't even know. Oooh, here's a thought: maybe you have it and you don't even know. Wow. Deep, huh? I told you I was taking you deep.
And hey, while we're on the subject of you, wait a minute. Your grandchildren probably wouldn't be stealing your drugs unless they were really yummy drugs - xanax, lortabs, oxys, roxies, percocets, codeine, adderall, vyvanse, valium, dilaudid. Let's take the topic a little deeper. This whole topic would be harder still to discuss if you - yes, you - are the one who has a drug problem that has spiralled out of control. You might be shooting up heroin yourself - or wearing a fentanyl patch. Baby boomer women don't just make up one of the fastest growing markets in America, they also present one of the fastest growing rates of heroin, morphine and now fentanyl addiction in this opiod epidemic that has marred the beginnings of the 21st century. And that's not even talking about the amphetamine epidemic with adderall, which is not so far removed from meth. Go-go juice anyone? It's more common than you think.
Check out this article on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3097242/
Here's what they say:
"The number of Americans aged 50+ years with a substance use disorder is projected to double from 2.8 million in 2002–2006 to 5.7 million in 2020."
Did you read that right? It is projected to DOUBLE.
Here's another quote from that article for you to ponder:
"...older adults appeared to be less likely than younger adults to perceive substance use as problematic or to use treatment services."
Maybe you're not the drug addict, maybe it's not your kid or your grandkid...maybe it's your mother. Hell, maybe it's even your grandmother. I'm 33, my father is 53, my paternal grandmother 69, her mother 84 - if they were all alive, they could all still be drug addicts and alcoholics (and they were).
I don't know who the drug addict is, but the statistics tell me it's touching you. This is what I have to say to you:
No matter who the drug addict is, they deserve a chance to get well and stay alive.
Society has pushed them to the side, told them they are expendable, let them die. Overdose deaths in the United States more than tripled between 1999 and 2015 - from 16,849 to 52,404 annually. Mostly driven by opioid use and mostly heroin and fentanyl. Fentanyl is most commonly used with older patients.
I work on a daily basis with people who are in crisis. Maybe they are homeless, low-income, drug-addicted, mentally ill, sick and disabled, have AIDS or Hep C. My area of expertise and passion is called Harm Reduction. In Roanoke, we're starting a new project around this issue. We don't see many grandmothers reaching out for services. So we're going to reach out to you through this magazine. You can read my column secretly - down deep just me, you and the jellyfish - and find out everything you need to know to help your kids, your friend, your boyfriend, your mother, or yourself. Stay tuned for more info as I keep it coming at you.
It's always been shrouded in secrecy. Secrets remind me of jellyfish swimming below the surface in the ocean deep. You know they're there but you can't see them, so you don't think about it, don't talk about it. Instead you swim and hope their stinging tentacles don't brush against you and ruin your day at the beach. Jellyfish stings are normally pretty rare. It becomes a problem however if there is a swarm or "bloom" of jellyfish.