The worst gateway drugs


Last January, I made the mistake of trying to walk my 60-pound husky (Stormy) and my 70-pound husky (Loki) at the same time. They pulled me over on the driveway and I heard my wrist crunch. I had a jagged crack through the thickest part of my radius, and my shoulder strained in a way that hurt even worse.

The shoulder pain was intense. I took all the painkiller I safely could and it was still excruciating. We tried ice, heating pads, Epsom salt, everything we could think of, but after about a week, I broke. I asked my husband to talk to someone we knew who was into opioids.

“I’m asking because this is more than I can take,” I said.

He shook his head. “This can’t kill you. That can.”

A week of physical therapy later, my pain greatly reduced. My husband probably saved me from a terrifying situation.

A few years ago, I had a friend who said, “I’m almost all the way through my Suboxone program, but I want to fall off the wagon. I really want to fall off the wagon.”

Two weeks later, he was dead.

In a mental health first aid class the next month, I asked what I could have said to help. It seems that all I could have done was caution him against taking too much, to remind him his tolerance would have dropped.

“It’s like Oreos,” a friend said. “You don’t let yourself have Oreos for a really long time, and then when you get a package, you eat the whole thing.”

Except the cravings and the result are a whole lot worse than you get with Oreos.

Overdose deaths in Indiana rose from 1,704 in 2019 to 2,268 in 2020. More Hoosiers die from opioids than car crashes.

Of course, it’s harder to estimate how many are addicted and at risk, but I’m willing to bet all of us have been affected. These are our friends, neighbors, parents, children, siblings. So let’s stay strong, be compassionate without enabling, and remember — the worst gateway drugs are chronic pain and trauma.

If you are one of those struggling with addiction, I’m proud of you for keeping yourself alive. Please keep doing that.

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