Commentary: It’s Time to UNITE to Face Addiction

WashMonumentAtNight copyPicture tens of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder on the grounds beneath the Washington Monument. What a beautiful tapestry we’ll present to America on October 4, 2015, when individuals and families impacted by the addiction crisis gripping our nation descend on Washington, D.C. for the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally, a historic gathering to end the silence.

The time is now to end the silence around addiction – to help the more than 22 million Americans with addiction, to stand up for the 23 million more in recovery, and to urgently try to save the estimated 350 lives lost each day.

Many will say, “It’s about time!” And it is. This is our time because the National Mall symbolizes equal citizenship, empowerment, and unity – three things missing from the lives of more than 45 million Americans, and their loved ones, impacted by addiction.

Simply put, addiction is a national health crisis, not a crime, and it deserves national attention. Addiction and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States – more than car accidents or homicides.

The prevalence of alcohol-related deaths and drug overdoses is no surprise to the more than 23 million who have found recovery from addiction. I am one of those people in long-term recovery. In the first five years of my recovery, I wore my black suit to a lot of friends’ funerals. Knowing my friends didn’t need to die—that their deaths could have been prevented—was almost as painful as losing them.

Preventing, much less ending, addiction is not simple, but neither is curing cancer, reducing heart disease, or managing diabetes. However, we still find the collective will to search fearlessly and with faith to find better answers to these other devastating health conditions. Yet how we collectively react to addiction as a community and respond to it as a country are light years away from what we do for other health problems.

Yes, we spend a lot of money “battling addiction” in America. But for each dollar we spend, only two cents goes to prevention or recovery efforts, while ninety-eight cents goes to picking up the pieces that result from not being proactive about the addiction crisis. As many have come to understand, we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem.

Where is the outrage? Where is the public outcry about this needless loss of life, the devastating cost, and the lack of an organized effort to provide the solutions? We can’t hear it because the silence is too loud.

National-Call-in-Day-Help-Get-the-Comprehensive-Addiction-Recovery-Act-Passed-Partnership-for-Drug-Free-Kids-Newsroom-blog-postLong-standing shame, stigma and discrimination keep the suffering silent. On October 4th, with Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, The Fray and John Rzeznik providing the soundtrack, that silence will end.

Now is our time to face addiction head on and to stand up for prevention and recovery. Now is the time to UNITE to Face Addiction.

I hope to see all of you in Washington, D.C. on 10.04.15. For more information on the Rally, please visit

Greg Williams, UNITE to Face Addiction Director

UNITE to Face Addiction rally is being organized by Facing Addiction Inc., a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis, as well as an independent coalition of over 650 national, state, and local non-profit organizations.

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    Dave Finch

    September 25, 2015 at 6:56 PM

    I congratulate UNITE for this energetic effort and it should serve to raise awareness of your premise: addiction is a health issue, not a crime and treating addicts as criminals because they do what addicts must do accomplishes less than nothing. Until the American people become aware that criminal prohibition is what fosters the black market in drugs which puts them in the way of children where the vast majority of addictions start in the first place we will continue to live with the horrors of waging this war against ourselves. This is why in my blog posts and other writings I am trying to gain both public awareness of these realities and the solution I advocate in my book Kill the Drug Trade. We can dispense safely manufactured drugs to those adults who need them in a way that both prevents child access and fosters addiction reduction and recovery.

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    Melody Barnes LCSW, LAC

    September 23, 2015 at 11:53 AM

    I have worked in the field of addiction since the 70s. I have been in Montana since the mid-eighties. I’ve worked in state approved facilities and since 2005 fulltime in a private practice. I’ve worked extensively with opioid dependent individuals in my private practice. Everything I know about opioid addiction and treatment outcomes I’ve learned from my clients. They were my teachers. Some of my teachers died from overdoses over the years. There were no other professional trainings available to address opioid addiction and treatment. What my vantage point has shown me is that during the 70s, treatment options were numerous (depending on the state) and options for assisting the person with housing, vocational rehabilitation, childcare supports, and health care were available. What was not as readily available was psychiatric care as the addiction field did not yet recognize co-occurring disorders. Over the years, adults and adolescents have had to become criminalized to access the treatment they could not otherwise afford, more often than not while incarcerated. While the addiction field now recognizes co-occurring disorders and the critical role treatment of such disorders play in recovery, most can not access mental health services. We know so much more about substance abuse disorders. And while I am so excited the explosion of research findings, I am fearful that substance use disorders will become another medical condition where treatment will be driven by pharmaceutical companies and rather than science. Read: NOT A FAN OF SUBOXONE. PLEASE MAKE VIVITROL MORE AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE TO PATIENTS.

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    September 23, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    The problem is not ‘addiction’. The problem is overdose. This is a huge difference and battling addiction and proclaiming it a ‘disease’ will only increase the overdose death rate. But I agree that bringing addiction into the sunlight will help to reveal this truth.

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