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The Opiate Crisis and Healthcare

by Barbara J. Sloan, M.Ed.

I treated and supervised the treatment of at least 7000 addicts and alcoholics during my career as an addiction and mental health counselor. This is a complex illness that manifests with the current drug of choice cycling as society reacts to the ill effects of one drug by moving on to another. The cycle starts over every generation or so. A few decades ago, it was cocaine. Then methamphetamines rose again. Now it’s opiates. And always alcohol. The current opiate epidemic is no different.

While we clearly need to address the needs of these patients, we urgently need to also address the underlying factors that contribute to addiction. These include trauma, psychological abuse and physical pain among others.

Until we adequately fund mental health assessment and treatment all over the country and actively squash the stigma attached to mental illness, we will continue to see these cycles.

The most current health care bill offered by the Senate put a bandaid on these problems rather than addressing them. If we really want to see a difference, we must tell the Senate we want real comprehensive health care, including maternal care and mental health coverage for all.

Barbara Sloan is a retired addictions and mental health counselor who developed and managed several dual-diagnosis treatment programs.

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