Anyone in any walk of life can suffer from any addiction. In this world where everyone lives with some type of unbearable pressure, it is easy to take something to take the edge off. But the road from taking the edge off to overdosing to addiction is a short one. Let us look out for each other and ask, Are You Okay? Our people are dying due to alcohol and drug overdose daily. Over 1 million of us a year die due to alcohol, heroin, pharmaceutical drug, and opioid overdoses. These are preventable deaths, and we can choose to fix this.
Alcohol poisoning is fatal and causes serious problems that can lead to death. Alcohol poisoning includes confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, irregular breathing, pale or blue skin, hypothermia, and passing out. If you suspect alcohol poisoning keep the person awake, keep them warm and hydrated, upright seated, and call for emergency services immediately. In Kenya, more than 500 people die each year due to alcohol poisoning, these are preventable deaths.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), In 2020 about 500,000 deaths were attributable to drug use. More than 70% of these deaths are related to opioids, with more than 30% of those deaths caused by overdose. Examples of opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. The signs of opioid overdose include unresponsiveness and can't be woken up, limpness, blue lips, gums or fingertips, slow or irregular heartbeat or pulse, shallow or stopped breathing, and small pupils. If you suspect one of drug abuse, keep them awake and rush them to the nearest health center. Avoid unused or expired medications from getting into the wrong hands, keep them away from children, and dispose of them correctly.
Every overdose death is a policy failure. Political will in policy formation, drug use regulation, and drug sale and distribution framework should be developed and implemented effectively. The government should develop criteria to collect data and analyze all drugs, including pharmaceutical and other drugs. This will enhance transparency and will enable effective monitoring of drug overdose, abuse, and general use. The policymakers should check the pharmacies and make sure they are distributing the drugs to the right people, to limit drug overdoses. High profitability of drugs and corruption in government has frustrated the effort to effectively form policies that protect the people and effective implementation of the policy.
Our collective commitment should be fighting for a safe drug supply, decriminalization of drug addiction, and cut accessibility to harmful drugs. It is time to dismantle the stigma that keeps us quiet, stops us from reaching out for help, and telling the stories of the loved ones we lost to preventable drug overdoses. Let us educate our people through facts and stories of overcoming drug overdose and addiction while encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle. Many people affected by addiction face stigma and discrimination, which make it hard for them to reach out for help, leading them to use drugs alone, hence affecting their quality of life. One thing we can do to cut stigma is to change the way we speak about people who use substances. Adjusting our language to use language that shows care and concern helps reduce stigma is easy to do and impactful in the recovery process.
Addiction is Preventable
It is vital to offer support quickly and early to stop drug addiction from spiraling out of control. The right treatment against addiction helps break the hold of an addictive substance from a person using the drug. Preventing addiction involves providing treatment, support, shelter, education, and the lifesaving medication necessary for the people in need.