Addiction is a difficult disease, and Louisiana is not immune. According to the Louisiana Opioid Data and Surveillance System, in 2014 there were 5.1 million prescriptions filled for opioid or opioid-related drugs. To remind you, the population of our state is 4.6 million. Since 2014, the number of prescriptions has gone down to 3.8 million (cut off year being 2020), but the rate of hospitalizations and death have gone up. This might be due to the fact that– all things being equal– if prescriptions go down, street drugs would likely go up to meet the demand.
I spoke with several people at St. Christopher’s rehabilitation center in Baton Rouge, and they gave me so much insight into how addiction can start and how it can be overcome. I sat down with them to discuss how they felt. Their faces are obscured to protect their privacy. This is the first in a short series.
I went into these interviews trying to get material about the opioid crisis specifically in Louisiana, but in talking with two subjects (in video), the subject shifted more towards the public perception of addiction, specifically heroin addiction. There was over an hour of audio recordings combed through to find these parts, cutting tangents and interview prompts but trying to keep it as true as possible. I did not want to put any words in their mouths by getting them to speak on exactly what I went into the interview looking for. I found that mildly disingenuous and just wanted to use this platform to elevate their voices that often go unheard.
A large topic of discussion that deserves an entire video itself was the line drawn between the use of opioids, such as Oxycontin and their “hard drug ” cousin: heroin. One of the subjects spoke about how he and his friends would go out partying and while they would snort crushed opioid pills, he would shoot heroin. To him, the distinction was minimal; he was just getting a little higher than them. But to his friends, the two were worlds away. In many people’s heads, that is the common perception. But with the rise in opioid prescriptions, the line separating the two is very gray, and the distinction between the two is nearly meaningless.
In all, talking with these two was particularly illuminating and I hope that you agree. I am also happy to note that both subjects have now graduated the rehab center’s program and have moved on to sober houses, with one subject reaching his one year anniversary of sobriety next week. Our society has a tendency to ostracize those suffering from addiction. The disease is difficult to understand, and few people actually open themselves up to a discussion on the matter. Addiction is one of those issues that people do not really care about until it affects them, but it is a matter of public health that does need to be addressed. Giving those who have recovered a platform was my way of trying to start a discussion about what addiction is, because once our society starts to understand what the problem actually is, then we can move towards a solution.