International Overdose Awareness Day – Have we really become aware?

by apfotos / 07 September 2016 / No Comments

Screenshot 2016-09-06 18.00.07129 people will die today in the U.S. Their deaths will not be caused by the Zika virus, gun violence, car crashes or heart attacks. They will leave this earth compliments of the largest health crisis our country has ever faced; the prescription drug (opioid) and heroin epidemic.  After a decade of rally’s, marches, PSA’s, documentary’s, conventions, senate bills, and approximately 250,000 funerals, are we really more aware?

Addiction exists and effects us all. It resides In our homes, our schools, our work place and in every community of America, at all economic levels.

Most of us think we understand what addiction is and why people become addicts, the truth is we do not.  The majority of us have never been formally or properly educated about addiction. The knowledge we have has been formed by our environment, television, conversations, the opinions of others and our personal experiences.

Like millions of others, before my son Aaron struggled with addiction and overdosed in 2005 from Oxycontin, I thought I understood addiction, after all I was born into and lived through it.
My biological father was an addict, and in the years to follow both my sister and brother would fall victim to it .

From a very early age I witnessed the pain, devastation and havoc addiction causes. I was fearful of drugs, alcohol and the people who used them. Every  terrifying episode of impaired rage , chaos and violence was traumatic and provided my education and shaped my opinion of addicts and addiction.


What I saw and experienced was that addicts choose and enjoyed taking drugs. They preferred partying over working, cared little about anyone or anything other than getting high.
They lied and were selfish thieves that could not be trusted. They lacked the moral compass and strength to change their lives and stop their downward spiral that was rapidly plummeting towards certain death.

Now a generation later I have come full circle immersed in  what I feared most and desperately tried to shield my family from the disease of addiction. Some of the brightest and kindest people I know are addicts in recovery and treatment.

I no longer fear the disease or those struggling with it , I embrace them, support  them and take every opportunity to learn from their journey. I have compassion for them when they are suffering and appauld them when they become successfull at managing their illness.

 I understand now that  loving and supporting an addict in recovery can help them  and that enabling them will feed and empower their disease. Love has never cured an addict’s illness but it has given them strength to continue on the journey of recovery.

All of this knowledge came at a great personal cost, a tragic overdose of my son Aaron. No one paid more dearly than him, now a quadriplegic unable to speak confined to a wheelchair.
A decade ago when Aaron struggled with addiction I was not aware  that addiction was a “chronic illness” and like diabetes and heart disease it needs to be treated and maintained in order for those afflicted with it to function and live healthy lives. Our awareness came through tragedy, don’t let yours.

Are you aware that the disease of addiction can not be “FIXED” treated or recovered from in 30 days, a year or any specific time frame?
Are you aware that dependency and addiction can happen to anyone?
Are you aware that painkiller medication like Oxycontin is pharmaceutical grade heroin?

Are you aware that being an engaged and involved parent does not guarantee your child won’t experiment with prescription medications, drugs or alcohol?
Are you aware that 23 million adults struggle with addiction in the U.S.?
Are you aware that everyday 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments because of prescription opioids.
Are you aware that Oxycodone such as Oxycontin and Hydrocodone such as Vicodin are the most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths?
Are you aware that addiction doesn’t discriminate?
Are you aware addiction can afflict smart kids, good families in manicured neighborhoods?
Are you aware that the bathroom medicine cabinet is a dangerous place to store prescription medication?

If we had been more aware and educated about opioid pain medication  15 years ago would Aarons destiny have changed ?

Would the course of our lives be different ? Thats something we struggle with everyday, but can not alter. We can’t change Aarons past but we can try to prevent it from recurring in the future to  others.

Every morning I wake up and witness the physical destruction of my son, caused by an opioid pain medication overdose.

Everyday despite our challenges we try to make it the best day possible for Aaron, ourselves, our family and our community.

Are you aware,

As the sun rises each morning countless parents wake up in agony, grief-stricken due to the loss of a child from a prescription drug or heroin overdose. They struggle to rise, breath, eat, smile, to live. They are trapped in an inconsolable hell for the remainder of their lives.

If you do one thing today take a few minutes to become educated.
It is the single most important thing you can do for the health and well-being of yourself and your children.

Learn about prescription opioid medications. Discuss any medications your taking with your doctor, ask if they put you at risk of addiction. Consider asking for  medications just as effective that are not highly addictive.

You can help reduce diversion, addiction, overdoses and deaths by securing your medications and disposing of expired and unused medications at disposal boxes or at the national take back day events.

We are all part of the solution in ending the prescription drug and heroin epidemic in our country, through safe consumer practices and education.

If you’ve learned something new please share it with others.

My goal and that of so many parents who have buried their children and others whose children are now disabled, mentally or physically from an opioid or heroin overdose is to ; NEVER know your name, that you NEVER have to plan your child’s funeral, to NEVER read your child’s obituary, to NEVER see your child’s face on a memorial banner or poster, to NEVER march with you at a rally and to NEVER let the only place you visit your child be at a cemetery.
I hope after reading this you’ve become a bit more aware and that you will research the diease of addiction discover the facts  and discard the myths.

Remember, safe guarding  your prescription medications and using them properly is the simplest way to prevent addiction,  overdoses and deaths.

May health and happiness bless you and your family and the sound of laughter fill your home.

Sherrie Rubin
Director of the HOPE2GETHER Foundation
(Heroin, Opiate, Prescription drug, Education) 
Executive Committee Member of theCounty of San Diego Prescription Drug Task Force