Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

Ways to Volunteer and Help the Opioid Crisis

There is no shortage of organizations that work to combat the opioid epidemic on both the national and local levels. One of the best things you can do is to research organizations that aim to help and volunteer your time and efforts as much as is possible for you. Chances are there might even already exist some form of organization in your own community that fights opioid addiction and helps those who are suffering from addiction, and they would be more than happy to have another set of helping hands.

Additionally, you can go even further in the fight against opioid addiction by looking into what it takes to become a substance abuse nurse and get down into the trenches. Substance abuse nurses are more than community advocates and actually work with therapists, physicians, and other professionals to help opioid addicts get clean and stay clean.

Advocate For Medical Treatment

There exists an unfortunate stigma against Medically-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, for opioid dependence with detractors holding onto the idea that MAT is just giving drug addicts more dugs. This is a short-sighted belief as it has been proven that MAT for opioid addiction using methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine helps to increase patient retention during treatment and improve social function. Additionally, these drugs can reduce the risk of transmission of infectious disease and curb criminal activity as money is no longer necessary to support the addiction.

Still, this stigma against MAT for opioid dependence prevents many suffering from addiction from seeking treatment out of fear of ostracization or legal repercussions. Fortunately, dozens of states have put forward some form of a Good Samaritan law that exists to protect those seeking addiction treatment from having charges filed against them in the process. It is incredibly important to advocate for the safe medical treatment of opioid addiction because it is one of the most successful forms of treatment.

Making sure that you do your research on local, state, and federal representatives and then use your voting power is one of the best ways to advocate for MAT for opioid addiction. It also helps to write and call your current representatives to make them aware of the situation in your community and that you believe that addicts have a better chance at recovery with access to medical treatment. With enough persistence and organization, it is possible to get some actual change to occur within the legal system in a way that benefits those suffering from opioid addiction who are reticent to pursue treatment.

Listen With Compassion

It is no secret that addiction to opioids has a profound negative effect on not only those who are suffering from addiction, but to the people around them that love them. Addiction can ruin marriages, break apart families, and destroy friendships in an instant and it can be painful to watch all of it happen while you feel powerless to stop it. While you cannot force anyone to change their life, you can open yourself up to try and understand why and how addiction occurs in the first place.

Addiction can come seemingly out of nowhere and a lot of people find it hard to confront their loved ones over opioid abuse, even if they have seen the mounting signs and evidence that it is occurring. All it takes to start encouraging a loved one or friend to seek treatment is listening to them with an open heart and compassion. Opioid addiction is often complicated and those suffering from it did not necessarily choose to start down the path of addiction but were instead overprescribed opioids too often and are now in too deep to pull back out without help.

Many opioid addicts can feel ashamed of their addiction and giving them the help that they need is as simple as approaching the situation to help in any way you can, judgment-free. It can also be helpful to offer to join them on their journey to become healthy again as a running partner or workout buddy. This can not only help them become healthier physically but provides them with someone that they can count on to be there regularly, giving them much needed stability. When people know that those that love them have not turned their back on them because of their addiction, their road to recovery can seem much less winding.

The opioid crisis isn’t going away any time soon, and it is up to individuals in communities across the country to stand up and fight for their friends and family. Volunteering, voting, and being there for those that need you most are great starting points when it comes to battling the opioid crisis. It isn’t a cure, but it is what we can do here and now.

Tim Esterdahl

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Integrated Family Community Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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