A message in a needle.

It’s not quite the kind of messaging I’m used to. Normally I’m cobbling together the right words for a client, to capture the essence of a brand, a promise, a benefit, a selling proposition. Or writing a clumsy, but heartfelt, blog.

This is different. It’s not a bottle floating in the ocean anymore. This needle, this heroin-filled syringe finding another vein, is a cry for help. A death rattle. And it is a warning, because opioid addiction is getting worse.

Unless you live under a rock, you hear it and see the aftermath. But we don’t seem to be doing much about it, aside from bemoaning the tragedy of it all and sending thoughts and prayers.

They’re just addicts, right?

After all, they made the choice to shoot up or smoke it or swallow it. They must be weak minded, or morally challenged, or just stupid. Let’s check that thinking for a minute, because it’s baloney. Addiction is an incredibly inclusive disease. The hundreds of thousands of people suffering with and dying from this epidemic are neighbors, family, friends, and friends of friends. They are not just poor. They come from all ethnicities and economic backgrounds. I know this to be true, because I have known many.

Whatever your personal beliefs, the fact is that treatment, done right, works. Lots of scientific research is being done to improve it. But I don’t believe recovery will ever be a quick cure. Not all addicted people are the same. That’s why therapies and outcomes are being studied so intensely. This study must continue. Improving treatment outcomes must be the goal. It can be done, if we don’t ignore the message.

Try to help.

Tons of people and organizations are trying like crazy to help. Their futures are precarious, however, in light of coming changes to our healthcare. We at designRoom are trying to help too, helping behavioral health organizations become as healthy and effective as possible by helping them build their brands, inside and out. On the personal side, Kelly serves on the board of a regional behavioral healthcare provider. Me? I’ve worked with hundreds of addicted people and a few small organizations. Most often it’s simple stuff like rides, company, counsel, food, shoes, haircuts, coffee, clothes… occasionally cash, if I know them well enough.

I can say without reservation that working with addicts and the people that help them is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Everyone should try it. You can find them in hospitals, halfway houses, treatment centers, jails, food centers, homeless shelters, and, yeah, on the street. Give whatever you can. Here’s one of the great places in my neck of the woods. We need more.

Learn as much as you can.

Refute the myths about addiction and recovery whenever you hear them. Message your legislators and demand that, no matter what else happens to our health care, access to addiction treatment must be included.

Approximately one in four-to-five of us will deal with this disease personally. Someone you know will die. Let’s all heed the message and do something to help.