When a war between two factions is in progress, the media routinely reports on casualties. Newspapers often chronicle the number of dead on the battlefield, while other outlets offer statistics as to how many combatants were maimed or mutilated during a particular skirmish.
In either case, the overall toll could be in the hundreds or thousands. In time, the statistics blur. We are no longer shocked or outraged by the numbers; instead, we become inured to what these numbers actually reflect.
Until…The morning a war correspondent posts a photograph of a toddler stranded in a bombed-out building, clutching a stuffed animal.
Then, everything changes.
Humanitarians take notice. Bystanders decry the war. Governments become involved.
Why? Because the horror of war was instantly reduce to one innocent child.
America is engaged in a war right now. One camp consists of doctors, parents, law enforcement, and many others. All are fighting the same enemy: opioid addiction. Whether this addiction is the result of heroin from Mexico or oxycontin from the local pharmacy, this disease is powerful, indefatigable and takes no prisoners.
The numbers of addicted and dying are staggering; so much so, that the statistics are beginning to blur.
Until…The Washington Post printed an article on the seven-year-old who told her bus driver that she was unable to wake both of her parents that morning. Investigators found them dead from an overdose. Three other very young children were in the house.
It is the children, the ones we rarely read about, who are the unseen casualties of this particular war. How many thousands upon thousands of children in our country today are homeless, left orphaned, on the street because the enemy won that particular skirmish? Far too many. Not to mention the profound effect on children of growing up with the chaos, insecurity, emotional neglect and all forms of abuse associated with addiction.
I have the incredible privilege and joy to be the mother of a 23-month old son. Daily, Samuel relies on his parents to provide everything of value: love, security, acceptance, shelter, food, companionship; everything from a warm nighttime blanket, socks and sturdy shoes, to structure, consistency and emotional availability.
And this is precisely why the young girl on the school bus is today’s toddler in a war zone.
She, and her three siblings, undoubtedly depended on her parents exactly as my son depends on my husband and me. Those kids were totally dependent on their parents, and now those parents are dead from the disease of addiction.
American must win this war against addiction that is claiming the lives of so many each and every day. We must continue to educate the public as well as physicians about the risks of addictive medications, we must continue to educate physicians about identifying and treating the disease of addiction, to prescribe appropriately and get those addicted to the treatment they need. Simply because when addiction wins, it’s not only the person who dies that loses, but anyone connected to her, including and especially her children.