Active in family support groups and harm reduction
Read her essay, “Lessons from my son”

Laura Cash, Harm Reduction Ohio board member

Harm Reduction Ohio is proud to announce that Laura Cash, a family activist involved in drug policy reform, has joined our Board of Directors.

Laura, a retired kindergarten teacher who lives in Delaware, Ohio, learned about harm reduction the hard way — after her son Mark died of a heroin overdose in June 2014. Today, Laura is thoroughly informed about substance abuse, drug policy and the human toll that overdose death takes on families.

Laura is the Ohio coordinator for Grief Recovery After Substance Passing (GRASP), a family group that provides peer support and compassion for those who’ve lost a loved one to overdose. She’s also a board member of Broken No More, a substance abuse forum on “enlightened drug policies.”

Shortly after the fourth anniversary of Mark’s death, Laura posted this insightful essay on Facebook. We share it here for a broader audience.

Lessons from my son

By Laura Cash

Mark should not be dead today. There is no reason why anyone should be dying from substance use disorders in our country. We know what works….we just choose to judge and punish instead of making scientific, evidence-based treatments easily accessible and affordable.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) — specifically methadone and buprenorphine — not only save lives but allow individuals to be productive members of our society. In fact, it should not be called medication “assisted” treatment….it is the treatment.

Twelve step programs are not treatment programs; they are support groups. One may choose to attend a group ,but it should never take the place of evidence-based treatment.

We need to look to other countries that have had success in reducing opioid overdose death rates. In a recent study, 33 countries were looked at. The United States was the worst at preventing overdose deaths. We should be ashamed by our response and the ever rising number of deaths.

Please read this article to find our what our country should be doing. It says:

“The evidence suggests that cheap or free and easy access to OST (Opioid Substitution Treatment) is the most fundamental building block needed to reverse an opioid crisis. Once that foundation is in place, countries will benefit by adding drug consumption rooms, heroin assisted treatment, take home naloxone, and housing first programs to it. But without affordable and accessible OST these other programs alone are insufficient. The way to make OST affordable and accessible in the US is with office based prescribing and pharmacy dosing of methadone. This costs less than a dollar a day for the medication itself and is much less stigmatizing than waiting in line at a methadone clinic.” From the first article

A second article explains it this way:

“Studies have shown that MAT reduces illicit drug use, disease rates, and related harmful behaviors, including criminal activity. People in MAT are up to 75% less likely to die from a cause related to their addiction. Despite what the National Institute of Health says is “unequivocal” evidence of MAT’s effectiveness and safety, many myths persist about MAT. As a result, people are denied potentially life saving addiction treatment.” 

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