You may remember from a couple of video and blog posts I’ve made in the past couple of weeks that I was invited to sit on a panel regarding the opioid epidemic in America.
The panel was sponsored in part by the Butterfly Protocol, a Chicago-based organization developing a taper-down system for people addicted to opioids.
I am very humbled and honored to have been invited to sit on this rather large panel that included doctors and also esteemed addiction journalist Maia Szalavitz.
Problem is, PTSD triggers were just too intense yesterday for me to participate.
I pulled out at the very last minute, almost like someone walking out of a wedding at the very moment the pastor says, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
As the only victim of an opioid-related violent crime, and also the only person in recovery with a medical cannabis card, I could have brought an interesting point of view to the discussion.
There’s just too much going on right now related to my opioid-related attack and all the reasons why I was granted the medical cannabis card in the first place.
Thank God I have it. Medical cannabis is my Superman. Superman saved me from the benzodiazepine blizzard. This little green plant without a cape will save America from it, too.
And the reason I was granted the card isn’t just about the attack in my basement, or the terror in the jail, the terror in the hospital, or any of the things that happened to me in recent years. I have been in horrific car accidents, I have been raped, and I was beaten by my parents as a child.
I want to thank the Butterfly Protocol for inviting me to participate. I know they understand PTSD, so I expect they forgive me.
Below are answers I provided as opening statements for the panel discussion:
- As a person in recovery and a medical cannabis advocate, the biggest challenge I face is the federal government’s prohibition of a plant proven to save lives. Across the nation, opioid addicts and the opioid dependent are finding recovery through cannabis. States, meanwhile, are finding much needed tax revenue through legalization. That tax revenue can go on to be used as law enforcement sees fit to fight the opioid epidemic in other ways.
- My biggest concerns for the U.S. and Canada moving forward is that we’ll find the Pharma-made opioid epidemic is only the tip of the iceberg – prepare for the benzodiazepine blizzard next. With so many veterans returning from war with PTSD, not to mention the trauma natural disasters and an increasingly violent world reek on our populations, millions have been prescribed anxiety pills in recent years. For people with substance abuse issues, these drugs are disastrous. The natural alternative? Cannabis. I am a legal medical cannabis patient in Illinois with the qualifying condition of chronic PTSD.
- Simple: Understand there is no one road to addiction, or dependence, and therefore no one road out. All legitimate forms of treatment, especially with medical cannabis, must be considered.
- Removing roadblocks to stigma starts with speaking up and owning our addiction. In the 1990s, when I was working as executive news editor of The Advocate magazine, President Clinton became the first sitting president to speak to a Human Rights Campaign gala. He told the mostly gay crowd that to achieve equal rights and to shatter stigma, everyone must stand up and come out. For decades, the idea of being in the closet not only was accepted but encouraged. We now realize this is a dangerous, flawed way of living for marginalized populations. In this regard, I vehemently despite 12-step groups. We must stand up, raise our hands, and share our stories of recovery as addicts, however unusual our own journey to recovery may sound. It may help another.
- The answer to No. 5 is much the same as the answer to No. 4, but it requires us to stop stigmatizing others in our own recovery community. Healthcare providers, social workers, addicts…because we’re not in agreement, we stigmatize one another, and we often forget we all have the same goal: Freedom from opioids when possible, the ability to live comfortably when not. It’s time we stop passing judgement, and it’s beyond time we stop letting profits drive our decisions for those who work in healthcare and its assorted tentacles. Rehab isn’t always an honest business; neither is Pharma.