Death is never an easy thing to deal with but that sorrow is compounded exponentially when the person who has passed on was a user of drugs. Suddenly, the person we loved has the privacy they cherished pulled from them. Why did this happen, people ask. The answer becomes drugs. But the truth is more complex. The person who has passed on may have been a full blown addict, an experimenter, a chipper, a self medication expert, or maybe they just liked getting high. We will never be able to ask them. And in the end, it does not really matter because we are powerless to bring them back and reassure them we accept them. We love them. We understand. We want to comfort them one more time. We want to remind them they are not alone. Even if we do not approve of their drug use, we want to remind them they are valued as a human being of worth in this world.
In our moment of pain, we search for answers. Unfortunately, more often that not, the STIGMA of drug use is what killed many of our loved ones. How else can you explain why a 19 year old could not get effective treatment for what began as a simple infection? How else can you explain why my friend Jake died in his room and was dead for four days before anyone found him? What about the countless folks I have known who did not receive medical care until what would turn out to be the very end of their lives because of their concerns of the way addicts are treated in medical settings? Stigma, limited access to clean supplies, and restrictions on the life saving antidote for opiate overdose naloxone are allowing people to die daily.
I survived my own struggle with drugs to bear witness to the tragic death of countless friends and acquaintances. In my anger and frustration, I chose to work to end these senseless deaths. For those that are suffering today, I wish you peace.