A button with the word “STIGMA” in black, bold letters, crossed out by bold red lines was pinned to Roland Lamb’s suit as he talked to our class on Feb. 21. Lamb works in the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services and has been a therapist, counselor and administrator concerned with addiction for more than 41 years.
He presented our class with lots of technical information and data about the demographics of users and overdose victims, the neighborhoods where overdoses most commonly occur and the price of treatments like Narcan. He also discussed many facets of addiction, like physicians’ responsibility to stop the over-prescription of opioids and the difficulty to open up progressive treatment facilities, like a methadone clinic that took him seven years to establish.
What stood out to me the most from Lamb’s talk was his comment on the prevalence of white users dying from opioid. Some have said the media and government treating the opioid epidemic as a major public health crisis is belated and is only because more white people have died. Lamb said, frankly, who cares as long as we are getting treatment and attention? I think this is an interesting critique and reflects a lot about Lamb as someone in the addiction treatment field. He just wants to get some work done. Despite that, I think we need to keep in mind how people’s differing backgrounds can greatly affect the way, and if, they get treatment. This is something that’s really important and should be reflected in our reporting.