Opinion | Opioid crisis

By on January 31, 2018

Two months ago, I saw her on the streets of New York City by Grand Central Station. I stared at her with wonder while waiting for the light to turn green. Out of all the homeless people in New York, I knew it had to be her. She had those distinct characteristics I knew so well: blue doe eyes and pursed, full lips. For those 30 seconds I was standing on that street corner, I stared and stared, unable to move my eyes from that face I once knew so well.

My cousin passed away from an accidental opioid overdose. Like so many other families out there, mine has fallen victim to a death caused by drug addiction. Opioids are the leading cause of drug-related deaths. In 2016, opioids were involved in over 40,000 deaths, five times higher than in 1999, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC).

My cousin washomeless living in New York City ever since her addiction grew and led her to run away from home. She lived on the streets for months without contacting any family.

Prescription and illegal opioids, such as heroin, are abused because they increase hormone production that gives a feeling of pleasure. It becomes extremely addictive when the user relies on its powerful effects to get through everyday life.

Eventually her mother got a call from the hospital, she gave birth to a baby who was in the prenatal ICU with an opioid addiction. Her mother was contacted but she didn’t see her daughter, just the baby. Fortunately, the baby survived and is safe with family. My cousin, a drug-addicted new mother, was back on the streets of the city alone. No one heard anything about her for almost a year and a half.

It was early January when her family got a call that she was in the ICU. She overdosed on heroin and was not likely to survive the night. Her brain activity was non existent and she was diagnosed with cerebral death–or brain dead.

I knew then that the girl I admired as a child was gone forever, that even with a miraculous recovery she would never be the same. She passed away the next morning.

If this experience taught me anything is that addiction only causes destruction. Just this week, five people overdosed in the city of New Haven in one day. That’s five more families affected by drug addiction. Five more families going through what mine had suffered.

Death is not the only problem that comes with a drug addiction. It costs a lot of money for an addict to keep up with their desired effects. People with addictions spend an average of 150 dollars a day, according to Rehab International. In addition, long-term effects include liver damage, infections of the heart, and possible contracting of Hepatitis and AIDS from sharing needles.

People who use heroin are more likely to use three other substances simultaneously, making it more likely for an accidental overdose to occur, according to the CDC.

Even if an addict chose to go to rehabilitation to recover from their addiction, they could still suffer in the future if they were addicted for long enough.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an opioid addiction, seek help.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 877-726-4727

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): 888-696-4222

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8522

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