SIDNEY — Vicki Harrison, an activist, writer and founder of Mothers Opposing Opioids (MOO) provided some sobering statistics when she gave a talk, sponsored by Samaritan Works, Thursday, Oct. 4, in Sidney.
She presented in Sidney Middle School to a crowd of parents and local support organizations and also visited local schools to talk about the nationwide opioid epidemic.
Mothers Opposing Opioids engages in nationwide education and advocacy about the risks of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioid-based narcotics.
The central narrative of Harrison’s presentation involved her son, Tyler, whose struggles with anxiety and depression led to drug abuse, an eventual addiction to heroin, and his passing in 2014 at 26. Harrison, wanting to find meaning in her son’s experience, developed MOO as a way to leverage her professional experience as an educator to help combat the opioid epidemic. She has also written a book, Release Me, based on her son’s experience and using documents and examples of his artwork to chronicle his struggles, and copies were being sold at the talk.
Harrison explained that since the vast majority of people who develop a dependency on opiates had no intention to, her organization strives to treat addicts with respect, and to encourage other programs to do the same. Moreover, Harrison stressed the importance of understanding addiction holistically, seeing clearly its impact on the families of addicts, and how addiction and overdose impact the community surrounded by those afflicted. Harrison encouraged the audience to think of addiction as a “family disease” and a “community disease.” She shared the strain that her son’s addiction had caused her family and stressed that community support for family members of addicts as important.
Harrison shared statistics about the realities of addiction in America. She noted that 115 Americans die every day from an opiate-based overdose, and 500,000 will die in the next 10 years. More than $1 trillion dollars will be lost as a result of the myriad effects of opioid addiction this year. With lost productivity and the cost of law enforcement, treatment and prevention, the cost of the opiate crisis is immense, just in terms of dollars and cents.
The signs of addiction are not always consistent or clear, Harrison said. It can be difficult to differentiate between the normal pangs and withdrawal of adolescence and signs of a dangerous addiction.
Representatives of a number of faith-based and secular community organizations were present at the talk, seeking to inform attendees of the resources available for loved ones grappling with addiction. Harrison provided attendees with her contact information, as well as materials about MOO.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.