I hope you found the previous post on Marijuana and Quality of Life useful. I have very much enjoyed the feedback and discussion it has prompted.
One of the core reasons I started this blog is that I believe in the importance of having an open dialogue about behavioral health and substance abuse issues. This is one of the ways to improve the quality of care that is available. The more we discuss and collaborate with affected individuals, their families and treatment providers in our communities and across the nation, the stronger our resolve and the change we seek to make will be.
In that light, I am pleased to share a recent article I wrote for Psychiatric Times. In the piece, Heroin Addiction: A Chronic Disease Like Any Other, I share my thoughts about the epidemic of Heroin overdoses facing our nation. You can view the article: here. I also share some steps we can take to prevent the next Opioid overdose death. You have to register to view the article, but that takes just a minute and it is free.
A reader made a comment and raised a question regarding a possible benefit of the stigmatization of Heroin addiction to society. He contrasts destigmatization of behaviors versus mental illness. I think this is a great question. However, addiction (formally called substance use disorders in DSM-5) and mental illness are both chronic diseases and I believe they must be viewed and treated as such. Overdose is often a complication of the disease of Opioid addiction (Opioid Use Disorder) and our treatments should be aimed at the disease itself and not only at its symptoms and complications.
I am by no means saying we should promote heroin use. However, we cannot ignore substance use disorders because we do not like their outcomes, the portrait users in the media or the chronic nature of the disease. To be clear, I am calling for the destigmatization of the disease of Heroin Use Disorder and not the act of using Heroin. There were many aspects that led to the lowering of smoking rates, including both the laws that were passed making it more difficult to smoke and stigmatization of the act of smoking. The laws and stigmatization already exist for heroin, however, what we still need is the type of discussion that happened across our nation with regards to cigarettes.
Cigarette smoking rates went down after our nation began having an honest discussion regarding quality research and treatment options. We need that type of national focus and attention on Heroin Use Disorder and other diseases of addiction our communities continue to face, if we want to improve outcomes.
The article: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blogs/couch-crisis/heroin-addiction-chronic-disease-any-other