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My sons deserve respect bestowed to victims of other national tragedies

The overdose crisis is a national tragedy but the government has not lowered flags to fly at half-staff, a customary recognition of tragedy.

By Cheryl Juaire

A decade ago, at the beginning of the opioid epidemic, my son, Corey, died of a heroin overdose at age 23. I knew so little about opioid addiction when Corey struggled, and I didn’t know anyone with a child who had died, let alone from an overdose.

For the next two and a half years, my family and I grieved alone. In 2015, I received an invitation to meet other mothers who had lost a child to overdose. They helped me get a new perspective on life with grief. It was then that I came to understand how much grieving parents, those whose children had died from substance use disorder, needed one another.

My grief is still there, but it now manifests itself in hope and advocacy. That hope still exists despite the death of my second son, Sean Merrill. He was prescribed painkillers, went into treatment and was in recovery for several years. Then, he relapsed, and we lost him in 2021.

People like Corey and Sean are dying every day. We don’t see all their deaths at once, but it’s happening all across the country.

The Problem

The ongoing overdose crisis has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives this century with the highest number of overdose deaths in a single year recorded in 2020. It is more important than ever to recognize the overdose crisis as a national tragedy to honor the lives of those lost and bring comfort to their families.

The Solution

Flags are flown at half-staff to mark a mourning and remembrance period and to signal that the country has experienced a tragedy. The recognition can bring comfort and honor to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives. The federal government can recognize the overdose crisis as a tragedy and honor the victims and their families by encouraging federal buildings to lower their flags to half-staff on Overdose Awareness Day, which occurs every year on August 31st.

Take Action

Has your family experienced inadequate prevention, or obstacles to receiving treatment?

Your story can help others impacted by addiction and become a powerful tool for policy change. By sharing our experiences, we can help others feel like they are not alone and break the stigma associated with substance use.

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Help us increase awareness of the systemic barriers to addiction prevention and care.