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Recovery Advocates Say Overcoming Opioids Should Get As Much Attention As Overdoses

Toby Talbot
Associated Press
This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.

Those trying to tackle the opioid crisis say solving it will take more than money and government help. It will take a change in attitude. 

Lauren Davis, with Washington Recovery Alliance, says the stigma attached to addiction makes it less likely that people will seek treatment.

Davis will be a featured speaker at this year's King County Behavioral Health Legislative Forum. The forum is 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, 301 Mercer St.

Stories about widespread addiction to heroin and pain medication seem to be everywhere. But Davis says too often the focus is on deaths from overdoses or families torn apart or public health systems in crisis.

“What’s been missing is the other side of the story that we’ve got 23 million people in this country who are in long term recovery from substance abuse disorder, people who've gotten their children back and gotten jobs," Davis said.

She says when when the narrative about substance abuse is overwhelmingly negative, it creates a stigma, making people ashamed to seek treatment or even talk about it. It also makes governments less likely to devote resources.

Davis imagines a different world, one where recovery is everywhere,  “in which the local town parade has a recovery float and there's a greeting card section devoted to recovery anniversaries,”  Davis said.

She says those sorts of things could help erase the stigma.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.