Increase Awareness: Provide Educational Opportunities that Create Understanding and Encourage Compassion
As a pastor in West Virginia noted, “Churches are not neutral bystanders: what they don’t say is just as important as what they do say.”
Community members need to understand addiction to create a culture of acceptance and support. Once addiction is understood as a chronic disease condition, not a personal failing, stigma and shame can be replaced by compassion and hope.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.
—National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction”
How to Increase Awareness in Your Community
Your community can partner with your local public health office, hospitals, community health centers, or nonprofit service organizations to host educational events on:
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Educate your community about evidence-based, medication- assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
- Addiction as a Disease and Long-Term, Chronic Condition: Help community members understand the need for long-term support of people in recovery.
- Pain Management: Being a knowledgeable consumer is important. Teach your members to ask their doctors questions like: Is that an opioid? Is it necessary? Are there alternatives such as non-medication pain relief or self-management programs for my pain?
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)/ Trauma Informed Approaches: Learn how early stressful or traumatic events increase risk for substance abuse and challenge recovery efforts.
- Safe Drug Disposal: More than half of those who abused prescription painkillers obtained them from friends or family. Promote safe drug disposal sites to raise awareness and reduce the supply of opioids getting into the wrong hands.
- Good Samaritan Laws: Invite local law enforcement officials to talk about the laws in your state that may protect those providing and calling for help.