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Changing How We Think of Addicts, Live

HuffPost Live has launched a new series of live reports called The War on Addiction, which examines how the U.S. is slowly turning from punishing addicts to actually helping them.

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By Bryan Le

05/02/14

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In light of America's growing heroin epidemic, the Huffington Post has launched The War on Addiction: A Huffpost Live Series. The next segment, which will run live from May 5 to May 9, will allow readers and commenters to share their experiences with addiction. Those who have seen their loved ones fall into addiction are also encouraged to participate. Ricky Camilleri is set to host.

Their most recent installment was Heroin is Changing The Way We Talk About Drugs, which examined how America's biggest new drug problem is finally starting to turn heads, and hearts, on the subject of addiction. Joining Camilleri via live video feed was a panel of guests that discussed how our nation should help addicts recover and not throw them into prison.

Bill Dinker, a long-term addict in recovery and director of admissions at Discovery Place, recalled how he himself once judged heroin addicts. "When I did go to treatment, the guys who were in there for heroin, who were using it with a needle, were kinda looked down upon as the lowest of the low - and I certainly viewed them that way too." It took himself looking up from the bottom of heroin addiction to find a change of perspective.

"It's so hard to know who it is, it could be your next-door neighbor," said Josh Coulter, who lost a friend to heroin overdose. "Starts with pain pills, leads into heroin because the pills get expensive over time and the heroin is so much cheaper."

The panel was also joined by Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, who lamented that it took deaths to finally bring attention to a problem that has been around for decades. "It really doesn't make the headlines until - and I hate to say this - until you get an A-list actor dead of a drug overdose and all of a sudden its on everybody's mind and everybody's concerned about it," he said.

Marisa Hebbe, coordinator of the Opiate Education and Awareness Task Force, and David Pepper, Ohio Attorney General candidate, felt that the solution is more government involvement in addiction treatment and education.

"It's almost predictable, what's happened they cracked down very hard a few years ago on the pill bills and prescription drugs," said Pepper. "But because no one was thinking in advance about treating those people who were addicted they quickly moved to heroin, it was cheaper and more available."

"It's also really important that our state and federal legislators get involved to direct resources to our communities," said Hebbe. "We really need services that treat addiction in a sustainable way, it's a long process that needs extensive outpatient programs and importantly we need to be reimbursing for addiction services the same way that we do for any chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease."

Readers chimed in on that segment with text and video comments and can do the same next week. So make sure to head over to HuffPost Live May 5-9 to share your own experience or the experience of a loved one trapped in the throes of addiction.

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