Tag Archives: shouldn’t

I shouldn’t be criminalised for using cannabis to ease my constant pain | James Coke

For much of my adult life I’ve had to rise each morning and battle multiple sclerosis. Sometimes it’s a thankless task – my legs scissored together, locked in spasm as I fight to break free of its stranglehold.

I’m convinced cannabis has allowed me to live more of a normal life than would have been possible with the constant pain. I’ve always smoked it. But in recent years I’ve been making cannabis oil and turning it into tinctures. A few drops of my special brew numbs any niggling aches, clear my mind and help me get a good night’s sleep, spasm-free.

But smoking a joint or making cannabis tinctures could land me in jail for five years under our current drug laws. For someone living with MS or any other affliction that can be soothed by cannabis – including Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or cancer – the stigma of a criminal record is not ethical or fair. 

Since the “war on drugs” was launched in the early 1970s millions of people with medical problems have been getting a bum deal. Cannabis, for centuries lauded for its therapeutic benefits, was unjustly demonised, tossed in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, to be expunged from the reach of society. However, the war was lost long ago. It is estimated that the illegal global drug market is worth about $ 400bn a year. The figure represents the total failure of the policy and excludes the billions wasted fighting it.

Several UK police forces, including Durham, effectively decriminalised the personal use of cannabis to prioritise resources. And public opinion supports a change in the law, especially when it comes to medical cannabis. That is only likely to increase after the fight by the mother of a six-year-old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who has been refused a licence to be treated with cannabis oil.


People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law

Changes in the law in parts of the US, Canada and Germany mean that the use of medical cannabis is now legal there. The shift in policy has given people the opportunity to choose their medical path, allowing many to escape addiction to prescription opioids.

The UK government appears reluctant to follow suit. Yet since 1998 it has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to produce Sativex. The medicine, for people with MS, is derived from cannabis plants, mostly grown by British Sugar. It is a step forward, but ultimately it has ringfenced the development and sale of medical cannabis at a massively inflated price. Only a handful of those with MS receive it: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which authorises the use of drugs by the NHS deems it too expensive (a year’s supply can cost upwards of £5,000). You either have to live in parts of Wales or be able to afford a private prescription to benefit.

The formula in each 10ml Sativex bottle includes the chief components in cannabis – THC and CBD (2.5mg of each). It costs £125 a bottle and lasts on average 10 days. In comparison an ounce of medical cannabis will cost me £250 and hold upwards of 900mg of each component. Once extracted into cannabis oil and dosed accordingly, it can produce about 350 bottles of a product that does the same job, at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously by making the spray I am breaking the law – but it helps indicate the hypocrisy of the government’s stance and its inertia in facilitating real reform. The production process is certainly not rocket science, and cannabis is a common herb in many countries, and should not cost an arm and a leg. People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law.

Much rests on the second reading of Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill on Friday advocating cannabis be made legal for medical use. If it eventually passed into law, it would be a landmark day for people living with a chronic disease or in constant pain.

Big pharma and major corporations involved in the industry such as British Sugar may balk at a regulated free market in medical cannabis, seeking to protect their interests. The drugs minister, Victoria Atkins, has shown antipathy for any kind of reform to the laws on medical cannabis. (Incidentally her husband Paul Kenward, is the managing director at British Sugar.)

Flynn has got a lot of backers in his corner, though. Legalising medical cannabis might be personal to me, but it should be personal to us all. There are more than 11 million people living with a disability in the UK, and an ageing population means few will be immune from the pain that lies ahead. The benefits seen from the US and across the world offer us a template to build upon.

James Coke is a writer. He blogs at thedisabledchef.com

I shouldn’t be criminalised for using cannabis to ease my constant pain | James Coke

For much of my adult life I’ve had to rise each morning and battle multiple sclerosis. Sometimes it’s a thankless task – my legs scissored together, locked in spasm as I fight to break free of its stranglehold.

I’m convinced cannabis has allowed me to live more of a normal life than would have been possible with the constant pain. I’ve always smoked it. But in recent years I’ve been making cannabis oil and turning it into tinctures. A few drops of my special brew numbs any niggling aches, clear my mind and help me get a good night’s sleep, spasm-free.

But smoking a joint or making cannabis tinctures could land me in jail for five years under our current drug laws. For someone living with MS or any other affliction that can be soothed by cannabis – including Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or cancer – the stigma of a criminal record is not ethical or fair. 

Since the “war on drugs” was launched in the early 1970s millions of people with medical problems have been getting a bum deal. Cannabis, for centuries lauded for its therapeutic benefits, was unjustly demonised, tossed in with the likes of heroin and cocaine, to be expunged from the reach of society. However, the war was lost long ago. It is estimated that the illegal global drug market is worth about $ 400bn a year. The figure represents the total failure of the policy and excludes the billions wasted fighting it.

Several UK police forces, including Durham, effectively decriminalised the personal use of cannabis to prioritise resources. And public opinion supports a change in the law, especially when it comes to medical cannabis. That is only likely to increase after the fight by the mother of a six-year-old boy with a rare form of epilepsy who has been refused a licence to be treated with cannabis oil.


People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law

Changes in the law in parts of the US, Canada and Germany mean that the use of medical cannabis is now legal there. The shift in policy has given people the opportunity to choose their medical path, allowing many to escape addiction to prescription opioids.

The UK government appears reluctant to follow suit. Yet since 1998 it has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals to produce Sativex. The medicine, for people with MS, is derived from cannabis plants, mostly grown by British Sugar. It is a step forward, but ultimately it has ringfenced the development and sale of medical cannabis at a massively inflated price. Only a handful of those with MS receive it: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which authorises the use of drugs by the NHS deems it too expensive (a year’s supply can cost upwards of £5,000). You either have to live in parts of Wales or be able to afford a private prescription to benefit.

The formula in each 10ml Sativex bottle includes the chief components in cannabis – THC and CBD (2.5mg of each). It costs £125 a bottle and lasts on average 10 days. In comparison an ounce of medical cannabis will cost me £250 and hold upwards of 900mg of each component. Once extracted into cannabis oil and dosed accordingly, it can produce about 350 bottles of a product that does the same job, at a fraction of the cost.

Obviously by making the spray I am breaking the law – but it helps indicate the hypocrisy of the government’s stance and its inertia in facilitating real reform. The production process is certainly not rocket science, and cannabis is a common herb in many countries, and should not cost an arm and a leg. People are just being held to ransom by an outdated law.

Much rests on the second reading of Paul Flynn’s private member’s bill on Friday advocating cannabis be made legal for medical use. If it eventually passed into law, it would be a landmark day for people living with a chronic disease or in constant pain.

Big pharma and major corporations involved in the industry such as British Sugar may balk at a regulated free market in medical cannabis, seeking to protect their interests. The drugs minister, Victoria Atkins, has shown antipathy for any kind of reform to the laws on medical cannabis. (Incidentally her husband Paul Kenward, is the managing director at British Sugar.)

Flynn has got a lot of backers in his corner, though. Legalising medical cannabis might be personal to me, but it should be personal to us all. There are more than 11 million people living with a disability in the UK, and an ageing population means few will be immune from the pain that lies ahead. The benefits seen from the US and across the world offer us a template to build upon.

James Coke is a writer. He blogs at thedisabledchef.com

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization

I am in opioid recovery. People like me shouldn’t be so alone | Greg Williams

The opioid painkiller OxyContin hit the market in a big way in the year 2000, just after I turned 17. I was already using other prescription drugs. I started taking it in small doses, then it became a daily routine of crushing and snorting pills.

I was naive to what I was doing to my body. On days, I didn’t have it I would experience withdrawal, and sleep all day, but I had this idea that because doctors made the drugs, they were safe. Not realizing at the time this was basically synthetic heroin.

I’m 34 now and have been in recovery from addiction to opioids, alcohol, and other drugs for just over 16 years – I know how long I’ve been in recovery better than I know my age.

There are 23.5 million people in recovery like me, though the 22.7 million people in need of treatment for substance use disorders issues dominate the headlines. Addiction stories are important, but people should realize that recovery should be at minimum an equal part of the stories on the issue.

With tremendous tragedy surrounding the current headlines, there remains a great many things to be hopeful about. There’s a lot of things strategically, systematically and individually that can be done to manage addiction.

I feel lucky to be alive, but it also makes me angry. Throughout the journey of my own recovery, it’s been depressing, frustrating, and in some ways, motivating, to watch the opioid crisis become a pandemic in slow motion. It’s validating to finally hear the president declare a national public health emergency, but it’s also angering: why didn’t President Bush or President Obama take bolder action as the statistical trends became horrifying during their tenures.

Part of the reason we are beginning to see bolder responses from elected leaders across the country is mounting civic engagement from individuals and families impacted by addiction.

When the President’s Commission on Opioids released their interim recommendations this summer recovery supports were a glaring omission. So the organization I co-founded in 2015, Facing Addiction, coordinated more than 15,000 people to comment on this vital missing component to a comprehensive response. This week in the final report recovery support was deeply integrated into a number of the final recommendations.

People in recovery need ongoing support because addiction is a chronic illness. You don’t go to 5 days of “detox” or 28 days of “rehab” or receive out-patient treatment and sail off into the sunset. There is a lot of talk about treatment, treatment, treatment but we haven’t spent enough time studying how people get and stay for the long-term.

I found alcohol when I was 12 years old and immediately began to chase that experience – how it washed away my fear and anxiety. Marijuana entered the picture pretty quickly after and by the time I was 15 years old, I was using opioids and benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium – basically anything me and my friends could find in medicine cabinets to start, and then moved to buying the pills from dealers.

When I started using OxyContin, as a 17-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what I was using and I certainly didn’t know I was going to become physically dependent on it.

Addiction was a serious, serious problem for me: from near fatal car accidents, to run ins with law, to problems in school, to severe challenges with my family, who kept trying to intervene. They began drug testing me at the end of high school, but I’d make up a story about how it was just one time.

I was really defiant, but my family still put me in an outpatient program at 17, where I acknowledged that pills were a problem in my life. I left the program after 15 days and was convinced I could drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, telling myself I was done with the opioid painkillers. Within a week of trying to just “drink and smoke,” I was back to using them.

My family convinced me to go to a chemical dependency center for adolescents after I was in a near fatal car crash in July of 2001. I was placed with peers my age who had lived through what I lived through, and developed a desire to stop using, for good. I even was blessed to find a recovery house for young men to transition into after leaving the treatment program. That support helped me learn how to hold down jobs and improve relationships with my family and others.

My social group became young people who were also in recovery and we had incredible fun and memorable experiences: bungee jumping, sky diving, snowboarding, traveling and just being present. It was great to remember what we did the night before. I liked the person I had become and I regained some self-esteem that I had lost. It helped me repair a lot of shame and baggage from my active addiction.

I was lucky to get the early intervention, quality treatment, recovery supports, and family support that I did. Adolescents do better in addiction treatment services than any other age group. I was able to sit in counseling and talk about the exact onset of my illness. If I went through that process at 35, I’d have to playback 23 years of using – a lot of which I most likely wouldn’t remember. I also might not have my family to support me.

There is also still a lot of negative public attitudes surrounding those suffering from addiction. As a society, we cast a lot of blame and shame towards people who become addicted, but we don’t really educate people about on how and when addiction starts. It is more complicated than one day I woke up, age 12, and made a rational independent choice to become addicted to opioids.

I’m in long-term recovery today in spite of the broken acute care system we have in place. I returned home from my treatment and recovery house, and I wasn’t discharged to check in with a doctor. I didn’t have a recovery coach or a cohesive recovery plan.

I had only been engaged in a formal system of supports for just four months (which is a very long time comparatively). But that’s just 2 percent of my entire recovery journey. We wouldn’t deal with people who have diabetes, heart disease, or asthma that way. We can’t afford to deal with addiction with short-term focused approaches and then blame some individuals for not being able to stay well long-term.

We have a system problem. Our system to deal with addiction is woefully lacking – we leave a lot of it up to luck and chance. We tell people to avoid driving pass liquor stores, get honest with your doctor about your history, and to delete certain numbers from your cell phone.

We basically tell people with this chronic illness we might be able to help you initiate your recovery, but then you are on your own. Good luck! The journey to long-term recovery for the leading cause of death for those under 50 in America shouldn’t have to be all luck. It’s up to all of us to get involved.

  • Greg Williams, co-founder Facing Addiction, a leading national addiction recovery advocacy organization