The Opioid Crisis And How It's Affecting Black America
By: Eric Lewis
I'll admit. I had a completely different topic that I considered discussing with you today. It was about electronics and some of the gadgets you must get for the new year (besides your smartphone). I may still even write about it to get you familiar with them. But today I am not going to mention it, because I think given this climate we're in, discussing real issues related to us, especially in the black community: mental health and awareness.
Me choosing to share my thoughts and experience with this comes from a movie I watched just this morning, and listening to a song. Coincidentally, they complement each other in a perfectly haunting harmony. The movie: Beautiful Boy. The song: Treasure by Sampha. The movie stars Steve Carell (The Office) and Timothee Chalamet and tells the story of a young man's addiction to meth and the father's struggle to save him. It's based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by Nic Sheff. The movie was a sad and stirring account of Nic's addiction and the multiple relapses that occurred during his journey to stay clean and sober. I will admit, y'all, it was heartbreaking to see this portrayal of abuse and also a constant reminder that addiction affects everyone.
The Opioid Crisis has been widely debated as going pretty much unnoticed in Black and Minority communities, from a societal standpoint. In fact, during the 1970s and 80s, the concern was more on criminalizing minorities with The War On Drugs rather than seeking treatment. Now, with the advent of opioids affecting Rural America, the light has been shined more on a national scale. From a localized level, I'm sure whoever is reading this has been affected by drug addiction and abuse, whether it be family members, friends or environment. Growing up in my hometown, I saw drug and substance abuse around me constantly. I had family members very close to me that fell victim to crack, cocaine, heroin and lots of other illegal substances. It's a paralyzing feeling and constant paranoidal emotion because you know what is wrong, yet feel powerless to help.
Over the last 2 years, opioids have been attacking the Black communities in alarming numbers. From a nationwide standpoint, whites still account for a large number of opioid addiction cases. However, just in Illinois alone, Blacks make up for over a quarter of opioid deaths in the state...and we account for about 15% of the population. In Chicago, the numbers are more staggering: Blacks account for 32% of the population, but about half of all opioid overdose deaths (48%) come from the Black population. Scary numbers, people. What's more scary is the numbers are climbing.
Seeing the movie Beautiful Boy had me reminiscing back to my old days of dealing with people who were addicted to different substances and understanding the pain involved in seeking help. It is a realization that is all too familiar with millions of people. And this movie portrays it in painstaking detail.
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It's available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The soundtrack (which complements the movie extremely well) is available on your favorite streaming app. I suggest you watch it.
If you or anyone you know struggles with an addiction, do know that the road to recovery starts with a phone call. Please contact 1-844-LifeChange (543-3242) or go to www.LightHouseNetwork.org. It's available 24/7, free and confidential.