Cindy Koumoutzis, director of an important family group called Ohio CAN (Change Addiction Now), which works on dealing with opiate problems in a humane way, posted this thoughtful article on Facebook this weekend:

Every week I have the opportunity to converse with 40-50 active users and take this time to “pick their brain.” Ask questions regarding recovery, living conditions, trials and tribulations. Consequences. Choice. Stigma.

Cindy Koumoutzis with granddaughter

Prior to volunteering at our local syringe exchange program, my only source of information was my personal experiences and my child. Now I am able to reach out to numerous (people who use drugs and) who have no stake in the answer. No emotion in a response. Honest and hard core as it comes. 

All have been in jail and what they remember most is the “hole and detox.”

Most have participated in drug court, CHANCE, treatment in lieu, etc. When asked how that went, their response, “I’m here aren’t I?”

Most have revived a friend, partner or loved one with Narcan. They only will call 911 as a last resort.

Most hate their life and the future it offers, but see no way out. They experience stigma and see if often. They know what others think of them. They are “those people.”

Why this post?

In all the squabble and back and forth about who is right and who is wrong and whether to give them jail, treatment, felony, probation, one thing is NOT part of this conversation: MENTAL HEALTH. It should be.

You can fix their addiction, you can tell them to stop, you can give them MAT, you can throw them in jail, you throw them in a 30/60 day treatment.  BUT… unless the underlying REASON for self-medication is treated, they will continue to self-medicate. So regardless of the outcome Tuesday on Issue 1, unless we demand one-on-one LONG term counseling for trauma and for families an, individuals, the conversation will continue.   

We need to treat the pre-existing mental health conditions, Which came first, chickens or eggs? Choice or disease?

When we discuss who got recovery and where and how, add mental health into the conversation. This, in my opinion, is the culprit. A mental health problem is the beast that rears its ugly head and reminds most of their past, their present and hopeless future. Drugs are the result, not the cause.

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