Mark Zuckerberg Can Change The Conversation About Addiction

Mark Zuckerberg Can Change The Conversation About Addiction

By Victoria Kim 05/03/17

The billionaire Facebook co-founder visited Dayton, Ohio to talk to people who have been affected by the addiction epidemic.

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Mark Zuckerberg

Our benevolent Facebook overlord, Mark Zuckerberg, had a few words to say about the current epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States—after getting a firsthand account from the very people who are living it.

Zuckerberg was in Dayton, Ohio this past weekend where he met with a group of people in recovery from heroin and painkiller addiction, and the people who are helping them get well.

Zuckerberg illustrated in a Saturday Facebook post just how serious the situation has gotten in places like Dayton. “One woman told me her daughter, who is a recovering heroin addict, got promoted to hostess at the restaurant where she works because the last hostess overdosed in the bathroom,” he wrote.

Opioid abuse affects just about everybody in town.

The Facebook CEO outlined some important lessons he learned from meeting face-to-face with the group. First, is the “importance of connection and relationships.” He wrote, “A big part of recovery is surrounding yourself with people who are a positive influence and will help you avoid situations where you might relapse. You can’t get dragged back down.”

Developing a sense that one has a goal in life, a purpose, is another important part of recovery, Zuckerberg wrote. A man in the group who is in recovery told him it can be difficult to build that sense of purpose in a person who has “destroyed personal relationships, stolen from their family members, [and] sold their car for drugs.”

Lastly, Zuckerberg talks about reducing stigma. “One woman who has been clean for a year told me, ‘If we’re in active addiction it doesn’t mean we’re not human. Even if we’re not living our potential at this moment, we have a chance to do something with this life.’” 

He continued, “Another told me, ‘It’s important that addicts don’t end up as ‘those people.’ It’s not ‘those people,’ it’s your neighbor, and you need to be there to support them.” 

Recovery advocate Ryan Hampton of Facing Addiction responded to Zuckerberg’s post, and seems hopeful of the fact that he is “helping to change the conversation” about addiction. Hampton says this could be a “watershed moment” for the community of both people in active addiction and people on the path to recovery. 

Zuckerberg’s influence has potential to help turn the tide. “He has tremendous reach,” Lori Erion, a rep for Families of Addicts (FOA) who sat in on the meeting, told Hampton. “By using his platform and resources to change the national conversation around addiction, he could save millions of lives.”

Perhaps, Hampton says, this is the first step toward getting other Silicon Valley influencers involved in working with the community to seek innovative solutions to the problem.

“We have so much potential, and so much to give,” wrote Hampton. “To get there, we need understanding, support, and a place to share our stories. We’re ready to get to work.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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