The story of why pain relievers took root in Appalachia decades before the introduction of OxyContin Please listen , learn and help tell our story.
In the podcast Sally Satel, M.D., tells her thoughts about addiction from her own experience as a psychiatrist practicing in Appalachia. However, for me this particular podcast is one of the few opportunities to hear about Appalachia’s unique cultural story as a pioneer region affected by the opioid epidemic. A culture of coal mining, pain management, generational substance abuse, poverty and abuse of prescription pills seen as early as the 1980″s made the region ripe for the acceleration of the epidemic. More importantly, the devastation of the regions stronghold… the Appalachian family.
My initial frustration in the mid 1990’s as the situation escalated, was a familiar feeling of isolation. The rest of the state was not experiencing the problem the way the SW region of Virginia was. The early desperation leading to fear lasted for years. A desperation that began as trial and error treatments of every size and shape to avoid death. Next, was the relentless quest for recovery leading to unintentional overdoses and again death. That crippling fear that consumed every family slowly took its toll. After 10 years a slow and steady familiar pattern of rural, small town cultural resiliency emerged and folks began to do what came natural. They began to love, pray and coalesce around the issue knowing that if we healed we had to do it ourselves together. Stigma is real and surrendering is always hard. Through coalitions, small town cooperation and the faith community, desperation changed to hope. We had lived with the struggle long enough and gleaned hope from the light that recovery is possible. Our mission now is in sharing the hope of our champions in recovery and strategies of connectedness and change that has been initiated by coalitions and the faith-based movement.
The podcast helps to tell our story culturally overlooked for many years. I have come to accept that as we prevent, treat and recover from addiction, healthy communities have to be the keepers of what I refer to as the “healing puzzle’. Many pieces filled with options and choices coupled with research and the respect of an individual’s and family’s self-determination. Nurturing communities that promote effective change have to work together to build common connections and to help folks have a platform to tell their individual, family and community stories to feel heard. Our regional ASAC Coalition, Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition for Prevention Treatment and Recovery has a slogan…”It’s Our Community…It our Responsibility. Slowly but surely we have begun to see the true art of community healing
Happy New Year everyone.