SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – Nearly two million Americans abused or depended on prescription opioids in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s still a huge problem — just Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Columbiana County talking about it — as it’s happening throughout our communities.
But there’s also another another factor when it comes to substance abuse — the stigma that goes along with it.
Stopping that stigma is personal for Mercer County man Jack Luchette, a proud Penn State Shenango alum.
“I was born and raised in this community,” Luchette said. “This is my way of giving back.”
Luchette makes a point to come back to campus every year to share his story in the form of Stamp Out Stigma. The event — now in its third year — is a day dedicated to educating the community and openly talking about drug addiction and the stigma attached to it.
“People that know me personally call this my baby,” Luchette said. “This is the most important day of the year for me.”
Luchette has been working on this year’s message since May. He was once treated for opiate addiction, himself.
“Addiction is a lifelong disease,” Luchette said. “It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to overcome it, but I want to represent somebody that was able to.”
There are community resources an addict can turn to, but taking this step is difficult. It’s not just about using.
“Seventy-five percent of our people are addicts,” Gloria Mackaly of Mercer County Coalition for Drug Awareness said. “They will not come forward and get the help that they need because of the stigma. They’re ashamed of themselves [and] families are ashamed of them.”
That’s one part of the stigma. So is understanding that addiction is a disease.
Luchette said he heard that-first hand on the radio Tuesday night.
“People were calling in, asking why money is spent to rehabilitate addicts,” he said. “They make a choice to be addicted. Why don’t we just let them die or go to jail?”
Luchette said that’s why education and open conversations are so important.
And sharing his story is one way to let others know that there is hope.