opioid american overdose
Society & Culture, Practice & Voice

Opioid Addiction: Let’s Talk About It

Opioid addiction is a real problem that started as a solution to pain. I’ve been in pain for about eighteen months. I can’t really tell you why, either. After visiting five doctors, a rheumatologist, a neurologist, two physical therapists, an acupuncturist, an iridologist (hey, I was desperate), and a chiropractor, the pain and muscle stiffness in my hands and arms is, as of yet, undiagnosed. My medical mystery has cost me a great deal of time, emotional hardship, and money (even though I have a great medical insurance plan through my employer). Every doctor I’ve seen had only two answers for me: steroids and addictive painkillers. I am afraid of being addicted to opioids.

Fear of the far-reaching Opioid Addiction

Serving as the Chair for All Souls Criminal Justice Outreach (CJO) has taught me that I’m not alone in my fears. Many of us face chronic pain, friends and family members suffer from pain. Yet, the stories of opioid addiction as a fall-out from trying to address pain, are far too common. A recent story we learned of could be anyone’s in America; a friend who became addicted to opioids after a dental surgery and lost everything they had—job, family, and home.

The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history; it results in ninety American deaths per day and has eviscerated communities across the country. It is a consequence of a healthcare system run as a business. It’s a business of prescribing unprecedented amounts of Oxycodone and narcotics. This practice has created a culture of addiction in towns and cities throughout the US. In addition to the individual and community trauma, there are also great financial costs in treating addiction.

According to the Oklahoma State University’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, Oklahoma is first in the nation for non-medical use of prescription drugs. In 2015, enough opioids were prescribed in Oklahoma for EVERY adult to have 100 pills. Oklahoma’s own Attorney General, Mike Hunter states, “In the last 15 years, drug overdose deaths in the state have increased 91 percent and continue to rise. We lose nearly 1,000 Oklahomans per day due to a drug overdose.”

Opioid addiction costs more than lives

Issues around opioid addiction lead directly to an increase in our jail and prison populations, for which we pay again. In Oklahoma, 151 out of every 100,000 women are in prison—more than any other state in the nation and twice the national average. Many are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, and many of those, specifically from Tulsa, are related to the opioid epidemic. Throughout 2018, CJO spoke to the city’s healthcare community, nonprofit community, and city leadership about creating a city-wide Harm Reduction program. The Harm Reduction approach is a practical set of public health strategies designed to reduce the negative consequences of drug use and promote healthy individual lifestyles and communities.

Join the conversation with others addressing Tulsa’s opioid crisis

Please join us for an informative evening with journalist Chris McGreal of The Guardian and author of American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts. In partnership with Magic City Books, Booksmart Tulsa, and PEN America, in conjunction with All Souls Criminal Justice Outreach are presenting a unique opportunity to hear from the author and local agencies on the issue of opioid addiction. Join the conversation on Monday, January 14th, at All Souls Unitarian Church from 7:00-8:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Chris McGreal will speak about his book and the opioid epidemic that we face as a nation. After his talk, we will gather to discuss the work of our Tulsa partners and CJO, helping our city understand the Harm Reduction approach versus our current “Tough on Crime” policies. We hope that 2019 will be the year we turn the conversation around.

American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy with Chris McGreal
Monday, January 14  |  7:00 p.m. | BookSmart Tulsa & Magic City Books, PEN America with All Souls Criminal Justice Outreach
AMERICAN OVERDOSE is a devastating portrait of the opioid epidemic, a uniquely American and catastrophically lethal tragedy born of Congressional neglect, amplified by corporate greed, and brutally exploited by illegal drug cartels.

Criminal Justice Outreach and community partners will be available for more information and services available.
Mental Health Association
12 x 12
OSU/ Wellness
HOPE Testing
Tulsa Cares
Family and Children’s Services
Tulsa Yoga Room
New Hope

The All Souls Criminal Justice Outreach team meets on the first Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at All Souls. All Souls CJO seeks to care for those impacted by incarceration, to educate the community about criminal justice issues, and cultivate equitable reforms in Oklahoma’s Criminal Justice System. Please reach out via email or join our Facebook group if you’d like to join CJO or have questions.

Carlos Moreno is the co-chair of All Souls Criminal Justice Outreach and is an advocate for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma. Read more from him about CJO’s work in Poetic Justice and Prison and The Biology of Toxic Stress on beyondbelief.online.

Spiritually-centered care giving is at the heart of our church and is conducted through our many Pastoral Care Teams. All Souls members have access to pastoral care 24/7 every day of the year.

Cover Image: The National Judicial College, Addicted America


  1. Hello, my sister is 63 years old and lives in Virginia. She takes a 5 mg norcco b.i.d. And cannot get them because doctors are so restricted and scared to. She cannot take antinflamatories because of her stomach issues. If such a low dose is getting her by why can she not get them?? It doesn’t take the pain away but takes the edge off. Our mother had many medical issues and we are following the same path. I was a caregiver for 20 years and hairstylist for 30. I am taking the same amount of norcco as she is plus a meloxicam at bedtime. I need several surgeries but can’t afford them because healthcare SUCKS worse than it ever has!!! We have done therapies as well as some surgeries. My point is if we are only taking such a low dose and the script is only written for look doses we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for taking them!! I know people who eat Advil daily or Tylenol that will be harder in their kidneys and liver than what we are taking!!! They need to meet in the middle for some of US:) thanks

    1. Thanks for sharing with us Tambra. We understand the issue of pain medication is complex and isn’t always tied to addiction, but leads to addiction often. If you’re here in Tulsa, please come to the event with Chris McGreal. His book takes a deep dive into exactly what you guys have experienced and beyond.

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