You have a problem. You can’t deny it anymore. You can’t hide it anymore. Your life is completely unmanageable.

Now what?

You’ve boosted electronics from big box retailers. You’ve stolen from your loved ones. Hell, you’ve sold your own body.

Now what?

Now you get help. The good news is there are a number of places that you can go to get it. There are plenty of 12-step meetings around. Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous host meetings in the area. The Alcohol Counseling and Information Center is accepting new clients. Community Mental Health is a fantastic option and probably offers the greatest array of services. If your problem warrants it, Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center in Memphis has a tremendous inpatient program that can help anyone to successfully recalibrate themselves.

We have a serious problem in our country. The phrase “heroin epidemic” has bullied its way into the national consciousness. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving opioids rose sharply, from 18,515 in 2007 to 47,600 in 2017. This dramatic increase can be largely attributed to the disturbing amount of fentanyl that is flooding the streets. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin, and it’s absolutely ripping the life out of our communities.

I could have died last October when I used it. No, I did not ask for it when I called up my dealer that morning. Nor was I told that I was buying it that fateful afternoon. Yet it surely showed up in the blood test conducted by the sheriff’s department. It’s why I could not remain conscious as I swerved my since-impounded-Jeep Cherokee along the 20 mile stretch of highway between Flint and Lapeer. I’m lucky to be alive. I’m lucky I didn’t kill anyone.

I’m more forthcoming than most, no doubt, but I’m ever-so-average. I’m regular, and that’s the point. This epidemic is destroying every day people like me. It’s savaging whole families, and thumbing its nose at our society.

So the question is, now what?

It’s important to recognize that there isn’t anything resembling a vaccination that we can use to rid ourselves of this plague, but there is at least one tool we can use to limit its body count: knowledge. Most of us all recall our first titillating exposure to sex education as adolescents. It’s time for our schools to begin stressing the importance of addiction studies in the same way. A comprehensive curriculum that targets our youth will save lives, in some cases helping us to win the fight before it begins. While we cannot overstate to them how destructive drug abuse can be, we must also begin to include more than cursory mentions of the perils of video games and social media. The same chemicals that are released into the brain by heroin are also set free by the button-mashing of a game controller, or the stream of Facebook notifications that flow from the sharing of a well-liked picture.

While we may not know how to completely eliminate this scourge from our world, we must continue to develop and implement strategies that will limit its impact. You may know someone whose life depends on it.

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