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Thousands attend Unite To Face Addiction rally in DC
On October 4, 2015, tens of thousands of people gathered on The Mall in Washington, DC, for the first UNITE To Face Addiction Rally.
The rally also brought together for the first time some 700 “mobilizing partners of national, state and local organizations to face addiction and stand up for recovery” – professionals in the addiction field who have never worked together before.
Called “The Day The Silence Ends,” the event was organized by a new national non-profit called Facing Addiction Inc. The group wants to put everyone involved, from families to treatment professionals to government agencies, into communication as a single, organized entity that will vanquish addiction in America once and for all.
The Rally wasn’t all impassioned speeches. The event’s inspiring party atmosphere on the Mall was kicked up a notch by performances from Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow and others. The Surgeon General also appeared, and announced the country’s first-ever comprehensive “report on addiction.” We’ll cover that in a future blog.
“This was the beginning of changing the conversation from problems to solutions for addiction in America,” the organizers said, citing the failed $1 trillion “war on drugs” and no nationally integrated approach to dealing with addiction in sight. Facing Addiction says it is a grass-roots organization “dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis by unifying the voice of the over 85 million Americans impacted by addiction.”
Facing Addiction has attracted an impressive number of well known philanthropic groups and individuals as “founding sponsors,” and it’s actively soliciting donations from the public.
“We have come together to let our nation know that addiction is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected have been incarcerated, and that people can and do get well,” the group says on its website.
Out of the closet
The idea of coming out of the closet, admitting you’re in recovery with a substance abuse problem, and working together with others, is taking off across America.
Shortly before the rally in The Mall, a terrific article appeared in The Washington Post about that very subject. It points out that “anonymity has been a bedrock principle of Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups that help people recover from substance abuse.” The idea has always been that secrecy, even for people who’ve been sober for years, is necessary for people to feel safe about seeking help.
But that’s all changed, the Post said. “With a generation in the grip of an opiate epidemic, many younger activists are publicly acknowledging their addiction and recovery, and encouraging others to do the same. Stepping forward, they say, is the only way to earn social acceptance, political clout and badly needed money for treatment.”
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied attitudes toward two frequently shunned populations — the mentally ill and substance abusers — and found that the first group was strongly favored over the second. The survey found “significantly more negative views toward persons with drug addiction” with people “unwilling to have a person with drug addiction marry into their family or work closely with them.” They were “more willing to accept discriminatory practices against persons with drug addiction.”
“We tend to still think of addiction as a personal failing to be overcome, rather than as a medical condition that can be overcome,” said Colleen L. Barry, the lead author of the study. “That has real implications for who society blames. If you think addiction is all about an individual making bad choices, there’s no role for public policy, no role for structural changes.”
Chris Poulos, 33, a third-year law student at the University of Maine, was addicted and homeless as a teenager and served nearly three years in a federal prison for dealing cocaine. He told the Post, “So long as we keep ourselves in the shadows, we will remain in the shadows.”
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