Learning From WILD The Movie And A Walk Through Opioid History

Schematic overview of course and lands of the ...
Schematic overview of course and lands of the Pacific Crest Trail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to f–k every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail


Cheryl Strayed sought to reinvent herself by walking 1100 miles

If you haven’t read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail or seen the recently released WILD starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, then you might want to check out either the book or the movie. This past week one of our associates saw the movie and reported that she knew nothing about the book and had only seen previews of the movie. Basically she, like Cheryl, had no idea what she was getting herself into.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Anyone who has ever hiked any part of the Pacific Crest Trail knows what Cheryl was up against, but if you add to the strenuous nature of the trail, unpredictable weather and a woman who’s seeking to “get well” after living through what many have described as a four year bender, then you might come to the conclusion that Cheryl’s memoir is about her intervening in the journey she found herself on after losing her mother to cancer.

Cheryl took a walk on the WILD side…or as one reviewer said she was on an emotional odyssey.

While we learn from movies, we also continue to learn from history

Watching WILD the viewer gets just a glimpse of what opioid use and abuse can dissolve into…heroin addiction. You can read multiple news articles every day how different states, cities, towns, schools of all levels, businesses and families are trying to cope with painkiller abuse. It is often referred to as an epidemic.

The odd thing about all of this is that as a society we seem truly surprised to find ourselves engaged in this battle and with such intensity. Over the holidays we read an article in The New York Times, Painkiller Abuse, a Cyclical Challenge. We hope you will take the time to read the article, it offers some powerful photographs and a timeline that is worth noting.

The author Austin Frakt wants his readers to understand that this is not a new epidemic, but the latest in the cycle. As a society, at least since the late 19th century we have attempted to develop social policy that will deal with the latest onset.

  • In the late 1800s opioid products were not regulated. Heroin was created by Bayer Pharmaceuticals to be used for coughs.
  • In 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed and required drug labels to include all of the ingredients to be listed.
  • The 1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act took effect with a goal to curb use, by taxing narcotics. Additionally, it was decided with this act that it would be permissible to use opioids to treat pain, but not as part of a maintenance program for addiction.
  • By the 1920s heroin was frequently prescribed for menstrual pain.
  • In 1925 the Supreme Court legalized opioids to be used as maintenance treatment for addiction.
  • In 1935 the Federal Medical Center, located in Lexington, KY, opened. It was dedicated to treat substance use disorders. (It is also known for conducting addiction research and experiments.)
  • Jump ahead to the 1950s with a growing number of overdose deaths as a result of opioid use.
  • In 1961 the United Nations’ declaration that access to pain medication was a human right opened the door to more use and addiction.
  • By 1966 some states and then the federal government enacted laws that would allow addicts to be hospitalized on an involuntary basis.
  • In 1970 the Controlled Substance Act was passed by the 91st Congress and signed into law by President Nixon. The DEA was established. Both actions were supported by a number of intervention studies which pointed to the efficacy of treatment for addiction, including methadone type substances.
  • Of late, the federal government and 49 states have built databases to help control the sale and use of opioids. Such programs track the prescribers and the users of these drugs.
  • Naloxone is being promoted to have available in schools, homes and with first responders to react quickly to save a person who has overdosed.

As we move into the New Year…

It is true…it is important to remember history and to take the time to study history. This applies to family history as well. It is vital to understand that addiction is a family disease. With this understanding spouses and parents should stay alert to signs. If your loved one’s behavior has been slowly changing, ask questions. Are they late for work, do they oversleep, are grades changing, are they dropping off of sports teams, is their circle of friends changing, are they losing weight…the signs are there. Pay attention.

If you need help in starting the conversation, feel free to call us.  Recovery is possible.

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