Earlier this month, the United States Coast Guard docked in San Diego and unloaded about $721 million worth of cocaine seized over the past several months. Combining their efforts with Canadian forces, the USCG performed a total of 23 interdictions in order to pull in this massive haul, the largest that the port has seen in a long time. Adding up to more than 47,000 pounds, the drugs were handed over to federal agents pending further investigation, and the boat headed back out to continue the ongoing work of drug interdiction on the open sea.
If you feel like there is still an incredibly huge problem with drug abuse and addiction in the United States despite massive drug busts like these, you are not wrong. Though there is an ongoing and directed effort to stop the influx of illicit substances into the United States by air, land, and sea, we are facing a steadily climbing rate of overdose and addiction in California and across the country. Drug interdiction efforts like those performed by the United States Coast Guard are a critical piece in helping to minimize the impact of this problem, but it is just one piece in an increasingly complicated puzzle that we must all work together to solve.
The Role of Government
Drug interdiction is just one way that government is working to create a positive momentum toward health and healing in the United States. State government and the federal government, alone and working together, have made changes to legislation as well as allocated funding for the purpose of:
- Putting naloxone into the hands of first responders and families that are struggling with opiate addiction
- Increasing access to addiction treatment services
- Increasing awareness of the need for foster families due to an increase in kids in need of support caused by a parent’s addiction
- Increasing education requirements for prescribing physicians
- Increasing requirements for use of statewide prescription drug monitoring databases for prescribing physicians and dispensing pharmacists
The Role of the Medical Community
In addition to increasing the safeguards put in place to protect patients from developing a dependence on painkillers after a routine surgery or injury, the medical community works overtime to devise new ways of identifying patients in crisis and increasing access to treatment. This has so far taken the form of:
- Altering the prescribing standards for prescription painkillers
- Increasing time spent communicating potential risks of use of addictive medications with new patients
- Increasing the number of check-ins required for patients taking addictive medications for an extended period of time
- Adding screening questions among emergency and family medicine professionals to identify signs of mental health issues and substance use disorders
- Advocating for patients with insurance companies in order to connect them with medically necessary treatment
The Role of the Local Community
Across San Diego and in outlying areas, there are a number of nonprofit and other grassroots organizations dedicated to helping individuals and families facing untreated substance use disorders and/or co-occurring mental health disorders. These organizations offer:
- Harm reduction support
- Information for families in crisis due to a loved one’s addiction
- Peer support, such as through 12-Step meetings
- Advocacy assistance and referrals
- Lobby groups working to change legislation to support the needs of families facing addiction
The Role of the Family
Families who are living with someone in crisis are working hard to advocate for themselves and learn more about the nature of addiction as well as what treatment options are available. There is a lot of information to process, and it is not always easy to figure things out, especially when facing the emotional ups and downs that come with active addiction.
If your loved one is living with addiction and you are at your wit’s end trying to figure out what will be most effective, start by talking to your family doctor. Learn more about how drug use impacts the brain and its function, and begin to find out what you can about treatment options that will be the most effective choice for your loved one specifically.
Are you ready to take the steps needed to help your family begin the healing process and join the ongoing fight against addiction?