Guest Opinion: Listening to drug users is key to ending overdose crisis


Jordan McClements is a writer, composition/literature instructor and recovering heroin survivor, as well as a Master of Fine Arts student at Columbia College Chicago. He resides in Felton.

What we can do about the overdose crisis is listen to drug users.

We’re not listening to drug users.

We’re observing drug users die every day we pass them.

We watch drug users.

We’re horrified.

I overdosed on heroin in 2017 and survived. My cousin overdosed on heroin in 2019 and died.

It may have been better if someone worked with us, but that didn’t help us.

America failed to listen to help us, then America says we fail in society, so we join drug culture.

We have to start listening to drug users through the political system and health care system.

If the overdose crisis is a safe-supply issue, then legalize and regulate drugs.

You have a user in your life. Past. Present. Current. And it may be you.

And you need to listen to drug users. And if that drug user is you, you need to look in the mirror.

America needs to look in the mirror as well.

America needs to listen to people within the subculture of drug users and those committing self-harm.

When you don’t listen, you dehumanize a person.

America, in general, is dehumanizing people because we’re not listening.

Imagine the life of a hard-drug user. You’re going to hear a dozen horror stories.

What if your relative or a stranger committed those horror stories on you? Would you do it?

If all you have to do is walk to the corner store and shoot up, and the pain goes away, would you do it?

When America changes its mind of what drug use is, America will be ready to help.

If you want to solve the overdose crisis, you need to ask drug users about their life and what made them not choose life and what they need. And you need to give them what they need, not what you think they need.

We already legalize and regulate plenty of drugs that we know kill people.

There is no moral ground to stand on about drugs in this debate. People are overdosing more because of the war on drug users that we all have in us. The war on drug users is a mind-set that America has about drug users, the mind-set that drug users made the choice to use drugs.

The war on drug users’ mind-sets can only free itself when we realize the social conditions that make up a person.

See them as human beings. Not just in our mind-set and outreach but also through legislation.

If the American drug user is neither represented nor given voice, how can we say we are doing something about the overdose crisis?

What we can do about the overdose crisis is listen to drug users.

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